New FCC chair vows ‘light-touch’ approach to regulation

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By David Shepardson

<span class="articleLocation”>The new Republican head of the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission promised “light-touch” regulation of
areas such as the internet, a dramatic shift away from the Obama
administration’s approach to telecommunications oversight.

Ajit Pai, whom President Donald Trump named in January to
chair the FCC, said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
that the agency made a “mistake” in 2015 when it adopted
landmark “net neutrality rules” reclassifying internet service
like a public utility.

“The FCC decided to apply last-century, utility-style
regulation to today’s broadband networks,” Pai said in prepared
remarks released by his office.

“Our new approach injected tremendous uncertainty into the
broadband market,” he added. “And uncertainty is the enemy of
growth.”

The Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, which a
federal appeals court upheld, bar internet access providers from
slowing consumers’ access to web content.

Pai has not disclosed his plans to reverse the rules, but he
has emphasized he is committed to ensuring an open internet.

“We are confident in the decades-long, cross-party consensus
on light-touch Internet regulation — one that helped America’s
digital economy thrive,” Pai said. “Our approach will be not
zero regulation, but light-touch regulation — rules backed by
long-standing principles of competition law.”

Pai said on Monday that he would not review AT&T Inc’s
planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc.

In December he vowed to take a “weed whacker” to unneeded
rules and said net neutrality’s “days are numbered.”

Internet providers fear net neutrality rules make it harder
for them to manage traffic and discourage investing in
additional capacity, while websites worry that without the rules
they might lose access to customers.

Pai cannot simply issue an order doing away with the net
neutrality rules but must go through an administrative process.
He has not disclosed his plans, saying he will mount a “careful
look at the regulatory framework.”

Last month Tom Wheeler, then the FCC’s chairman, said
reversing the net neutrality rules “is not a slam dunk.”

Earlier this month, Pai sent letters to Verizon
Communications Inc and AT&T to notify them that the FCC
was closing investigations into “sponsored data” or “zero
rating” programs in which mobile phone companies give customers
free data for using certain video services. The FCC had
previously raised concerns about those policies.

Pai also is moving to block some stricter privacy rules on
internet providers that are set to take effect Thursday.



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