Trump’s FCC chairman vows to take ‘weed whacker’ to net neutrality rules

by WorldTribune Staff, January 24, 2017

President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) said he is ready to “fire up the weed whacker” and cut down net neutrality rules.

Trump on Jan. 23 designated Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the FCC, to be the agency’s new chairman.

Ajit Pai: Net neutrality’s ‘days are numbered.’ /Getty Images

“Pai is a free-market advocate who has been sharply critical of new regulations adopted by Democrats in recent years,” the Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 24.

Pai would replace Democrat Tom Wheeler, who stepped down on Jan. 20. Wheeler’s term had not expired but Trump gets to designate a new chairman as Republicans gain the FCC majority. The five-member commission has two vacancies after the departures of Wheeler and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel.

Net neutrality rules pushed by former President Barack Obama will be one of Pai’s top targets as FCC chair.

“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said in a speech last month to the Free State Foundation, a free-market think tank, adding he was “more confident than ever” that the “days are numbered” for net neutrality regulations.

Wheeler defended the regulations, saying “we made a decision on the record. The court supported that decision rather convincingly. I think it’s going to be difficult to just waltz in and say, ‘we’re going to overturn everything.’ ”

The Obama administration said it enacted the net neutrality rules to “ensure the free flow of online data by barring Internet service providers from discriminating against legal content flowing through their networks.” To institute the new rules, the FCC imposed utility-like oversight of broadband providers.

Net neutrality was strongly opposed by Pai and the FCC’s other Republican at the time, Michael O’Rielly, as well as GOP lawmakers and broadband providers.

Trump also spoke out against the rules, tweeting in November 2014, “Obama’s attack on the Internet is another top-down power grab.”

A federal appeals court upheld the rules last year after a legal challenge from  AT&T Inc., other telecom companies and industry trade groups.

Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, a digital rights group, said Pai “looks out for the corporate interests he used to represent in the private sector.”

“Millions of Americans from across the political spectrum have looked to the FCC to protect their rights to connect and communicate and cheered decisions like the historic net neutrality ruling, and Pai threatens to undo all of that important work,” Aaron said. “Those millions will rise up again to oppose his reactionary agenda.”