Tuesday Apr 25 2017 08:30 EDT
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai plans to introduce his plan to dismantle net neutrality at a speech in Washington, DC on Wednesday. Pai hasn’t offered up much detail on his plan so far, only saying he’d like to roll back the FCC’s Title II reclassification of ISPs as common carriers, by proxy killing not only the FCC’s authority over broadband providers, but the net neutrality rules passed — after a decade of debate — in 2015. Instead, Pai has indicated that he wants to replace the hard rules with “voluntary commitments” by large ISPs that they’ll remain on their best behavior.
Pai is introducing his net neutrality plan during a busy week in DC that will likely overshadow the FCC lead’s anti-net-neutrality agenda.When the FCC crafted the net neutrality rules in 2015, a record 4 million consumers wrote in to the agency, largely in support of the rules. And given that net neutrality has broad, bipartisan support among consumers, Pai has an uphill battle against what will likely be severe activist backlash.
Sources tell Politico Pai wants to introduce his idea tomorrow, then use his 2-1 partisan advantage to vote the plan into effect at the agency’s May 18 meeting — with the hopes of finalizing the proceeding by the fall. Pai has been meeting with several large companies that have a history of opposing net neutrality (Oracle, Facebook) to try and get them on board with his plan for “voluntary” neutrality guidelines.
Pai could also find himself in trouble with the courts if he persists on pushing forward with an idea that’s primarily only supported by large ISPs like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. If Pai decides to rush forward with rolling back the FCC’s Title II reclassification — he’d need to show the courts that things had changed substantially enough since the FCC’s June 2016 court victory — lest his effort get legally slapped down.
Pai surely knows this, so it’s possible he’s planning a game of “good cop, bad cop.” In that scenario, Pai would threaten to roll back net neutrality via FCC process, then the GOP (likely Senator John Thune, if history is any indication) pops up with a “compromise” solution: a new law that implements even weaker net neutrality protections than the existing rules.
But if Pai just tries to bull rush forth and strip away Title II reclassification on his own, most telecom lawyers I’ve talked to say he can expect a harsh legal rebuke on top of a massive wave of public disdain.