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FCC’s Pai: Net Neutrality Debate Is a Distraction

The network neutrality debate is a distraction from what the FCC should be focusing on, which is "modernizing its regulatory framework to account for the IP Transition."

That was the message from FCC commissioner Ajit Pai to an Internet Innovation Alliance forum in Washington.

He said that instead of using scarce resources to refight old common carrier battles, the FCC should "prioritize policies that will encourage the private sector to expand and upgrade high-speed broadband networks. And that means that we need to concentrate on expediting the Internet Protocol (IP) Transition."

He framed that distracting net neutrality debate in the following terms.

First, he said, Title II harkens back to railroad regulation of the 1800s, bogging the FCC down in a debate of the past with the difference being that the FCC should have learned from that example how common carriers can "take us off track."

Second, he said, it is using up countless staff hours in meetings and phone calls devoted to net neutrality. "That’s effort that isn’t being devoted toward modernizing many of our rules to expedite the IP Transition."

Third, he said, the Title II discussion is being driven by a "parade of horribles" that are hypothetical. "The evidence in the Internet marketplace does not justify dramatic regulatory change solely for the purpose of assuaging fears that have not materialized," he argues.

"The irony is we already know that the public-utility model, so beloved by Title II proponents, would deter innovation and drain private investment in broadband," he said. "The U.S. broadband market is a success story worth celebrating. And that success was enabled by light-touch regulation. Where there are concrete 'misfortunes,' we can take targeted action. But otherwise, we should recognize net neutrality and the Title II debate for what it is—a great distraction. And we should seize the moment to embrace the IP Transition and our all-IP future."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.