Monday, April 17, 2017

Report: FCC's Pai Faces Balancing Act On Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai faces a tough challenge in coming days: rolling back net-neutrality rules that he regards as an overreach, without reaching too far himself.

In the highly charged legal and political debate over how the Trump administration and Republican Congress would reverse the Obama-era rules, almost any misstep could be fatal to the effort, accofrding to The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Pai could announce his game plan as soon as this month to start acting at the commission’s May meeting, according to some people familiar with the matter. His timing will be crucial.

If Mr. Pai moves too fast to kill the existing rules, he risks provoking a court fight he could lose, according to some experts. But if he goes too slowly—potentially, by starting over with the government’s full rule-making process—Mr. Pai and his GOP allies might suffer politically, as online activists’ protests multiply.

The net-neutrality rules require internet service providers such as cable and wireless firms to treat all internet traffic the same. The providers have criticized the rules as regulatory overkill, particularly because they reclassified the firms as common carriers subject to extensive government oversight. But many activists say the rules are crucial to maintaining future competition on the internet. They are generally being supported by a range of big internet firms including Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. unit Google and Netflix Inc.

Whichever path Mr. Pai chooses, his road is studded with possible land mines, including vacancies on his commission, a continuing court fight over current rules and a new Supreme Court justice, the coming 2018 midterm elections and the potential for the kind of widespread protest only internet activists can organize.

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