FCC to Address Net Neutrality Dereg Remand

Ajit Pai
FCC chairman Ajit Pai (Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Federal Communications Chairman chairman Ajit Pai said Monday (Oct. 5) that the commission plans to vote at its October meeting on its response to a federal appeals court remand on its Restoring Internet Freedom (RIF) ISP deregulation order.

Pai said the item addressed the court's issues and “affirms that the FCC stands by the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, consistent with the practical reality consumers have experienced since December 2017 of an internet economy that is better, stronger and freer than ever.”

Related: Court Upholds Most of FCC ISP Dereg

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the bulk of the agency's decision to reclassify ISPs as Title I information service providers that aren’t subject to Title II common-carrier regulations and to eliminate the rules against blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and a general conduct rule. The court also said the FCC was within its authority and the decision was not arbitrary and capricious, but it said the FCC had not sufficiently explained the impact of that deregulation — eliminating rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization — on public safety, the regulation of pole attachments and its Lifeline broadband/phone subsidy program. 

Related: NCTA Says RIF Order Is on Firm Ground

The fact that the Republican-led FCC would defend the Republican majority-backed order is no surprise, but Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted against the RIF order, was not pleased. 

“This is crazy,” Rosenworcel said in response to the chairman. “The internet should be open and available for all. That’s what net neutrality is about. It’s why people from across this country rose up to voice their frustration and anger with the [FCC] when it decided to ignore their wishes and roll back net neutrality. Now the courts have asked us for a do-over. But instead of taking this opportunity to right what this agency got wrong, we are going to double down on our mistake.”

In a blog post on the Oct. 27 meeting agenda, Pai attributed pushback on that RIF order to "far-left special-interest groups, Hollywood stars, and Silicon Valley tech giants, as well as many in the media," whom he said "tried to scare the American people about what would happen once the FCC adopted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), one of Congress' strongest proponents of strong net neutrality rules joined Rosenworcel in blasting the FCC for "undermining" net neutrality. 

“The FCC was wrong when it repealed the net neutrality rules, and it’s wrong again today,” he said. “By failing to course-correct what the D.C. Circuit Court accurately described as an action ‘unhinged from the realities of modern broadband service,’ the Commission is continuing to take us down a path towards a less free and open internet. The FCC should restore the Open Internet Order and the Commission’s clear authority over broadband in order to protect not only the free flow of ideas, but also to make clear that the FCC has the power to ensure public safety and promote broadband access. 

“At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has made us more dependent than ever on broadband and wildfires are devastating the West, we need the FCC to step up, not double down on its past failures to promote the public interest."

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.