Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai announced today that the agency will reevaluate its 2015 determination that Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 gives the FCC authority to regulate the Internet, regulations that some call “net neutrality.” The FCC’s decision, under pressure from the Obama White House, to strictly regulate the Internet was an unprecedented and damaging expansion in federal power.
Chairman Pai’s announcement is welcome news for Americans who believe that speech online and new Internet services should not require permission from the nation’s media regulator. The Open Internet rules, particularly the vague “general conduct standard,” serve merely as a pernicious invitation to regulators and special interests to shape the Internet and new services. Innovators in Silicon Valley and across America should determine how the Internet evolves, not lawyers and lobbyists in Washington, DC.
In 1996, a Republican Congress and President Bill Clinton passed a law announcing that it is national policy that the Internet should be “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” That bipartisan policy, which allowed small and large app companies to thrive, was largely followed until the 2015 Open Internet rules. Chairman Pai and the other commissioners should quickly move to eliminate the Internet regulations and restore oversight to the Federal Trade Commission, which had protected competition, privacy, and consumers online for over two decades.