FCC's Ajit Pai touts decision to end Obama-era net neutrality rules

A decision by the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday to repeal an Obama-era ruling that allows the government to regulate the internet like a public utility will ultimately limit heavy-handed investment and encourage more companies to invest, FCC Chair Ajit Pai told FOX Business.

“Some companies are very worried, is the internet going to be free and open? And the argument that I made is that before 2015, when these regulations were imposed, we had a free and open internet,” Pai, a Republican who was appointed by President Donald Trump in January, told FOX Business’ Kennedy.

The so-called net neutrality ruling, which was championed by President Barack Obama in 2015, holds that internet service providers must treat all traffic on their networks equally. That means one company, such as Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) or Verizon (NYSE:VZ), should not block or slow down any website or content to benefit their own services over those of competitors. It also stipulated that broadband providers could not charge consumers more for certain content.

While this decision is seen as a victory for those companies, outspoken opponents include companies like Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), the parent company of Google, and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), both of which have urged Pai to keep the remaining rules in place.

“One of the things we found in this process, especially the smaller companies, because those are the companies that don’t have the wherewithal to hire a bunch of lawyers and accounts to comply with these regulations, they were the ones who told us, look, it’s hard enough as it is to raise capital and to invest in these areas, especially rural and low-income areas,” Pai said.

The five-member commission of the FCC is currently made up of three Republicans and two Democrats and is all but guaranteed to approve the decision at its Dec. 14 meeting. In a press release, Pai said that he will publicly release his proposal to repeal net neutrality on Wednesday.

At the time, Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), derided the then Democrat-controlled FCC’s decision to impose net neutrality rules. Likewise, prominent Democrats are now lambasting Pai and encouraging the FCC to not adopt his proposal.

“I voted against Ajit Pai for this very reason,” Sen. Kamala Harris (R-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. “If the FCC adopts this proposal, it will imperil the engine of California’s economy and the platform for our entrepreneurship and creativity.”

Telecom companies have twice won court orders blocking net neutrality rules on grounds that the FCC overstepped its authority, including in 2014 when a U.S. appeals court ruled against the FCC in a case brought by Verizon.

“Going forward we want all kinds of companies, the startups of the future to be able to invest and innovate on the web,” Pai said. “And the best way to do that is to ensure that everybody has the freedom to pursue a business plan that will serve their consumers well.”