Tech firms lobby to maintain net neutrality, opposing FCC chair

Dive Brief:

  • The trade association representing leading tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, declared "vigorous support" this week for maintaining net neutrality, according to a published letter to the secretary of the Federal Communications Commission. The Internet Association met this week with the FCC to discuss Chairman Ajit Pai's agenda toward the Obama-era rule.
  • The group called for the existing rules to remain enforced and intact, falling in the line with the tech industry's belief that "net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online," according to the letter. "Interconnection should not be used as a choke point to artificially slow traffic or extract unreasonable tolls from over-the-top providers."
  • Media reports from earlier this month detail Pai's apparent plans for net neutrality. Keeping the basic tenants of the policy in place, broadband companies would pledge to not block or take payment for prioritized internet traffic, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Federal Trade Commission would then step in if companies are found violating the rule. 

Dive Insight:

Pai has made his intentions toward net neutrality clear. Calling the policy a "mistake," Pai has pushed for reduced regulation from the FCC. According to Pai, net neutrality has introduced "uncertainty" into the broadband market, which can negatively impact growth.

Some of Pai's opposition to net neutrality stems from the belief that the FCC alone should not shoulder the responsibility of dictating the freedom of the internet. In a dissenting opinion against the FCC's policy, Pai said the issue should be resolved by "the people's elected representatives" and was "disappointed" that the unelected body of the FCC "took matters into [its] own hands." 

Silicon Valley and tech companies, however, wholeheartedly disagree with Pai's assessment. In March, more than 170 groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, signed a letter calling for the FCC to maintain net neutrality. Organizations argue that without net neutrality, internet providers could slow access to web content and make it more difficult to transfer large amounts of data. At the same time, many argue the rules also protect consumers. 

With only three members appointed to the FCC and two seats remaining vacant, current net neutrality rules are likely to be repealed. In 2015 when the rules were first put in place, two FCC commissioners were in opposition:then Commissioner Pai and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly. Those two are still members of the FCC, but now hold the majority vote.  

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