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Should Net Neutrality Be Silicon Valley’s Next Big Fight?

Silicon Valley is rightly focused on President Donald Trump’s immigration order. But it should be gearing up for another fight that’s vital to both tech companies and their customers.

Net neutrality is in the crosshairs again. Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has made it clear that he’s no fan. He’s already halted a net neutrality-related investigation launched by his predecessor and recently reaffirmed his belief that, one way or another, the “days are numbered” for the Open Internet rules.

Pai was not available for comment, but advocates on both sides of the net neutrality debate believe it’s only a matter of time before he tries to undo the rules.

If the courts or Congress don’t overturn them, Pai will, said Berin Szoka, president of Tech Freedom, a group that advocates against regulations affecting the technology and telecom industries, at a forum in Menlo Park, Calif., on net neutrality last week.

“It’s no mystery what Ajit is going do,” he said.

How exactly Pai will go after the rules is an open question, said Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press, a consumer advocacy group that lobbied for them.

But he added, “I think he’s making it pretty clear that he’s not interested in enforcing them and that he would welcome pretty much any opportunity to undermine or defang them.”

The net neutrality rules say that internet service providers shouldn’t unreasonably discriminate against particular internet sites or services. That has been spelled out in three big prohibitions: broadband providers are barred from blocking, throttling or prioritizing for a fee access to particular sites and services. Under the rules, providers are also required to disclose how they manage their networks.

The threat that those rules might be overturned should be of utmost concern to Silicon Valley and the broader tech industry. Tech companies including Google, Facebook,…

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