FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today initiated a process to reverse the commission’s previous decision to reclassify broadband as a Title II communications service – a move that also will further the goal of eliminating Net Neutrality guidelines put in place under the previous FCC administration. The first step in Pai’s plan to reverse broadband Title II reclassification was to circulate a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) seeking input on a recommendation that would cause broadband to again be treated as a more lightly regulated information service, as it was prior to 2015. The NPRM is scheduled for a vote at the commission’s next monthly meeting, Pai said.
“For decades before 2015, we had a free and open Internet,” said Pai in an address at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. today. “Indeed, the free and open Internet developed and flourished under light-touch regulation.”
Reasons to Reverse Broadband Title II Reclassification
The main reason that the previous FCC administration made the decision to reclassify broadband was that a federal appeals court ruled that doing so was the only means of establishing FCC authority to impose Net Neutrality, also known as Open Internet, rules. Pai argued today that those rules were unnecessary and a hindrance to broadband deployment.
“The truth of the matter is that we decided to abandon successful policies solely because of hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom,” said Pai today.
Pai’s NPRM apparently proposes eliminating Net Neutrality guidelines put in place under the previous FCC administration. According to a summary document released by the FCC today, Pai is proposing to “restore Internet freedom by ending government micromanagement.”
According to Pai, classifying broadband as a Title II communications service has decreased infrastructure investment. Among the nation’s 12 largest Internet service providers, domestic broadband capital expenditures decreased by 5.6% or $3.6 billion between 2014 and 2016 – the first two years of the Title II era, he said. Returning broadband to information service status would increase investment, thereby bringing high-speed Internet to more Americans; create jobs; and boost competition, Pai said.
In addition, he said, re-reclassification would be the ‘best path toward protecting Americans’ online privacy.” This is a reference to the recent Congressional action that repealed broadband privacy rules put in place under the previous FCC administration. At the time the rules were repealed, some people argued that those rules should be the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission. Others noted, however, that broadband’s classification as a Title II service moved that responsibility away from the FTC to the FCC. Classifying broadband as an information would return responsibility for broadband privacy to the FTC, supporters argue.