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FCC Chair To ‘Quickly Replace’ Obama Net Neutrality Rules

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Two speed Internet? Head honcho of US comms watchdog wants to reserve net neutrality rules

The chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reportedly acting quickly to give telecom operators and Internet Service Providers the ability to decide which customers receive the best Internet speeds.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump, and he wants to reserve the landmark net neutrality rules that were delivered under the former Obama administration.

It comes despite Pai pledging earlier this year to maintain a ‘light touch’ regime and not to bow to any pressure from President Trump. But he has previously admitted that the net neutrality rules were a mistake.

MWC 2017 FCC Ajit Pai

Net Neutrality

“America’s approach to broadband will be practical not ideological,” he declared at the time. But now Pai reportedly wants to ISPs to voluntarily agree to maintain an open internet, three sources briefed on the meeting told Reuters on Thursday.

Pai has apparently earlier this week met with major telecommunications trade groups to discuss his preliminary plan to reverse the rules, the sources said. Meanwhile the FCC has declined to comment, but Pai is known to be a vociferous opponent of Obama’s net neutrality regulations.

It was back in February 2015 that the FCC passed tough new rules to ensure broadband providers in the United States could not create ‘fast lanes’ that slow or block online traffic. The FCC had classified ISPs much like utility service providers (i.e. water, electricity, gas).

Proponents of network neutrality have long said it is necessary to keep the Internet from devolving into multiple tiers that depended on users’ ability to pay for preferential speeds. And the former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, has previously warned commissioners against removing the net neutrality rules.

Upcoming Vote

But it seems that Pai wants ISPs to voluntarily agree to not obstruct or slow consumer access to web content, two officials reportedly said late Tuesday.

The FCC chairman wants these companies to commit in writing to open internet principles and include them in their terms of service, which would make them binding.

The Reuters sources indicated that Pai plans to unveil his proposal to overturn the rules as early as late April and it could face an initial vote in May or June.

The reversing of Obama’s net neutrality rules are the latest regulatory changes ongoing in the United States.

Last month the House of Representatives in the US successfully overturned a FCC rule that required ISPs to obtain permission before sharing the web browsing history of their customers.

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