FCC Chair Defends Ending Net Neutrality; Promotes Competition

Sept. 18, 2019, 6:48 p.m. ·

FCC Chairman Agit Pai, left, talks with UNL Law Professor Gus Hurwitz (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

The chair of the Federal Communications Commission defended the decision to overturn net neutrality rules and promoted competition as the way to preserve local news coverage and protect privacy in an appearance in Lincoln Wednesday.

Agit Pai was named chairman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Donald Trump in 2017. He led that commission’s decision last year to overturn the Obama-era net neutrality rules. Those rules required internet service providers to treat internet content equally.

Critics argued abolishing the rules would hurt consumers by allowing internet service providers to establish “fast lanes” for favored content and slower speeds for other content. Pai said those predictions have not proven true. “To the contrary, an independent report showed in December 2018 that speeds were up 40 percent year over year. More Americans got fiber connections in 2018 than any year since they’ve been keeping records, and in addition to that broadband investment in the United States was up $3 billion, the second consecutive increase in capital expenditures,” Pai said.

The FCC’s action is being challenged in court by several consumer groups, technolgy companies and Democratic-led states.

Pai also advocated relaxing regulation on broadcasters who say their advertising revenues are being hurt by online competitors. “The answer to me, if the broadcasters are saying ‘Look, we’re competing with Google and Facebook, instead of heavily regulating us, why don’t you heavily regulate them also?’ The answer to that is ‘No, we should relax regulations on the legacy companies to recognize that the marketplace has changed and to give them a full and fair opportunity to compete,’” he said.

Pai also advocated competition as a means of protecting users’ privacy online, arguing that if consumers don’t like what one company is doing with their data, they should have the ability to switch to another.