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FCC Chief Lays Out 'Net Neutrality' Rules Rollback

"It's obviously been an fantastic few months in our industry, and there's clearly a return to a lighter-touch, pro-growth regulatory philosophy", said Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T, on an earnings call yesterday. But critics say Pai's moves would be a favor to big cable and telecom companies, and put free speech and competition at risk.

Pai has championed the deregulation of the Internet and is considering loosening the FCC rules that now prohibit broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or charging more money to certain websites.

First up, as Pai announced to the other FCC commissioners in a speech on Wednesday, will be an effort to "reverse the mistakes of Title II and return to the light-touch regulatory framework that served our nation so well during the Clinton administration, Bush administration, and the first six years of the Obama administration". It's basic economics. The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you're likely to get. It also prohibits broadband providers from giving or selling access to certain internet content providers over others. Expect him to reiterate his argument that the 2015 rules have spooked internet providers, causing them to invest less in their infrastructure. Rather than protecting Americans and leveling the playing field, Pai argued Title II regulation has resulted in reduced industry investment and by extension cost the country as many as 100,000 jobs. By applying these rules to ISPs, the FCC was given the authority to regulate the behavior of ISPs similar to utilities, subjecting them to more government oversight.

"The truth of the matter is that we made a decision to abandon successful policies exclusively because of hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom", said Pai today.

The full text of the proposal will be released tomorrow afternoon for the public's review before being brought before the Commission for a vote at its May 18 meeting, Pai indicated.

In 2015, after a heated public battle, activists pushed the FCC to establish tough new rules that bar internet service providers from creating fast lanes, or "throttling" online traffic in a way that could allow them to pick online winners and losers and stifle competition. It's called the Title II Net Neutrality Rules.

Another vote, which could happen before the end of the year, would then decide whether Pai's proposal would take effect.

Pai and Republican commissioner Mike O'Rielly now hold a 2-1 majority at the agency. "We applaud F.C.C. Chairman Pai's initiative to remove this stifling regulatory cloud over the internet", Randall L Stephenson, AT&T's chief executive said, the Times reported.

"The current FCC net neutrality rules are working and these consumer protections should not be changed", the Internet Association that represents over 40 top internet companies - including Google, Facebook, and Netflix - said.

We reached out to these companies as well as the FCC for comment.