Broadband access, net neutrality rollbacks lead FCC chairman’s agenda
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai advocated this week for the extension of broadband service to remote and poor areas to be included in President Donald Trump’s new $1 trillion infrastructure spending plans at his first major speech to lawmakers since his appointment to the position, The Washington Post reported. Pai also signaled plans to roll back net neutrality rules established under the Obama administration.
Internet infrastructure expansion
Pai described broadband internet access as a key driver in economic growth in his speech, noting that 10 percent of Americans don’t have access to the service, including four in 10 households in rural areas. The FCC chairman called on Congress to include his Gigabit Opportunity Zones proposal in the infrastructure bill in order to offer broadband providers tax incentives for expanding services into low-income neighborhoods.
“In the digital age, I believe, our wired and wireless broadband networks are core components of our nation’s infrastructure,” Pai said, according to CNET. “That’s why my position is clear: If Congress moves forward with a major infrastructure package, broadband should be included.”
Pai announced the formation of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, which will evaluate current FCC regulations and determine which should be repealed or revised. He said funds currently allocated to internet infrastructure projects should be administered through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to maximize their impact while eliminating inefficiencies.
Reversing net neutrality regulations
Two years ago, the FCC voted to reclassify broadband service providers as common carriers. Pai wants to reverse that decision and develop other measures with Congress to encourage equal access to the internet with an open market and fewer regulations, according to Variety. Earlier, Pai shelved a report written by his predecessor that labeled wireless companies’ sponsored data plans as anti-competitive, saying the proliferation of unlimited data plans in recent months speaks to the value of a free market.
Information access advocates and some major internet companies have expressed concerns about abandoning net neutrality regulations, saying that granting wireless companies the ability to throttle speeds to content providers that have not established favorable relationships with them would negatively affect consumers. In its recent IPO filing, Snap said, “if the FCC, Congress, the European Union or the courts modify these open internet rules, mobile providers may be able to limit our users’ ability to access Snapchat or make Snapchat a less attractive alternative to our competitors’ applications,” according to Variety.
Pai said he will continue to advocate for expanded broadband access in the coming days in a tour of speeches in the areas that stand to benefit most from the infrastructure developments, according to The Washington Post.