FCC chairman stands by net neutrality repeal after appeals court ruling

Ajit Pai, Federal Communications Commission chairman, during a hearing in Washington, June 24. — Alex Wong/Pool via Reuters

WASHINGTON: US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on Oct 5 that he stands by the agency's repeal of landmark net neutrality rules and circulated a proposal to address three issues raised by a US appeals court.

A federal appeals court in October 2019 largely upheld the FCC's December 2017 net neutrality repeal, but directed the agency to reconsider the order's impact on public safety, regulations on attachments to utility poles and the agency's ability to provide subsidies for broadband service.

An FCC spokesman confirmed that Pai's order is not proposing any policy changes to address the issues raised by the appeals court.

The FCC under President Donald Trump voted 3-2 to toss out Obama-era rules prohibiting Internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes.

Pai said on Oct 5 that the "Internet has remained free and open. And it’s stronger than ever."

The FCC will vote on Pai's order on Oct 27, a week before the presidential election. Democrats have tried to make the net neutrality repeal a campaign issue in recent years.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said the "court decision took the agency to task for disregarding its duty to consider how the FCC’s decision threatened public safety, service for low-income households, and broadband infrastructure."

"Now the courts have asked us for a do-over," she said. "But instead of taking this opportunity to right what this agency got wrong, we are going to double down on our mistake."

The net neutrality repeal was applauded by Internet service providers (ISPs), as it gave them sweeping powers to recast how Americans use the Internet, as long as they disclose changes. The new rules took effect in June 2018, but ISPs have not changed how users access the Internet.

The appeals court also ruled the FCC overstepped its legal authority when it declared states cannot pass their own net neutrality laws. – Reuters

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