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New FCC Chair Tells MWC Net Neutrality Rules Were a 'Mistake'

Calling the Open Internet Order adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) two years ago a “mistake,” new FCC chairman Ajit Pai today told attendees at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the agency intends to return to a “light-touch approach” to regulations. MWC 2017, running this week from Feb. 27-March 2, is the mobile industry’s largest annual conference and expo.

Supporters of the FCC’s 2015 order say such comments are a sign that Net neutrality is under attack. They are vowing to fight efforts to roll back the order, which established “clear, bright-line rules” against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of content delivery by Internet service providers.

Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to succeed outgoing FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, has been vocal in his opposition to the Net neutrality order. After it was adopted, Pai called the order a “heavy-handed solution that won’t work for a problem that doesn’t exist.” Since taking the reins at the FCC, Pai has already led a number of reversals on measures adopted under Wheeler, including a stop to the investigations into “zero-rating” offerings and a stay on new broadband privacy rules that were approved in October.

Net Neutrality and Infrastructure Investment

“[T]wo years ago, the United States deviated from our successful, light-touch approach,” Pai said in his talk at the MWC. “The FCC decided to apply last-century, utility-style regulation to today’s broadband networks . . . This reversal wasn’t necessary to solve any problem; we were not living in a digital dystopia . . . Two years later, it has become evident that the FCC made a mistake.”

He added that the Open Internet Order, “injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market. And uncertainty is the enemy of growth.” The adoption of Net neutrality rules led to the first non-recession decline…


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