Former FCC head Ajit Pai blasts net neutrality vote as ‘complete waste of time’

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to hold a vote to reinstate net neutrality rules later this month as commissioners appointed by President Biden look to undo the Trump administration’s rollback of the agency’s regulation of broadband internet.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Wednesday that the commission will vote on April 25th to reinstate a national regulatory framework for broadband internet services that was established by the Obama administration in 2015 before it was reversed in 2017 by the Trump administration. 

Rosenworcel said the Trump era FCC “abdicated authority over broadband services” and that restoring the net neutrality rules “will allow the agency to serve once again as a strong consumer advocate of an open internet.” 

“This is a complete waste of time,” former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told FOX Business in a statement. “Contrary to hysterical predictions over half a decade ago when the FCC repealed these rules, the Internet today serves more American consumers than ever before, better services than ever before. That’s the primary reason why nobody actually cares about this issue, outside of a gaggle of Beltway partisans and activists for whom net neutrality is a civic religion.”

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The Biden administration’s rule would regulate broadband services as an essential resource under Title II of the Communications Act. Rosenworcel’s announcement said that the reinstatement of the rules would let the FCC “once again play a key role in preventing at the federal level broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or creating pay-to-play internet fast lanes.” 

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FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who was part of the commission led by Pai that reversed net neutrality rules in 2017, said that the Biden administration’s rules are unnecessary and that net neutrality supporters’ dire predictions about the impact on the internet that would result from the rule’s repeal.

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“Six years ago, Americans lived through one of the greatest hoaxes in regulatory history,” Carr wrote. “When my Republican FCC colleagues and I overturned the Obama Administration’s failed, two-year experiment with government control of the Internet in 2017, Title II proponents predicted ‘The End of the Internet as we know it’ and that ‘you’ll get the Internet one word at a time.'”

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In 2015, the FCC adopted the Obama administration’s neutrality rules, known as the Open Internet Order. The rules survived a legal challenge with a favorable ruling by a federal appeals court in 2016.

The Trump administration rolled back net neutrality in 2017 with a regulation known as the Restoring Internet Freedom rule on the grounds that the net neutrality rules were unnecessary, hampered innovation and led to a decline in internet service providers investing in their networks. The Trump era rule also survived a legal challenge after a review by a federal appellate court.

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President Biden in 2021 issued an executive order that recommended the FCC reinstate the Obama era net neutrality rules. Democrats flipped control of the five-member FCC in October, which allowed them to start the rulemaking process, which would conclude with the implementation vote later this month.

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A dozen states have implemented their own net neutrality laws or regulations in the wake of the 2017 repeal of the federal rules. Industry groups opposed to those state-level rules dropped their legal challenges in May 2022.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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