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FCC commish knocks Net neutrality plan, warns of stealthy regulations

Grant Gross | Feb. 11, 2015
The chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has undersold the amount of intrusive new regulations his net neutrality proposal will bring to the Internet and to broadband providers, a Republican commissioner said Tuesday.

"President Obama's plan gives the FCC broad and unprecedented discretion to micromanage the Internet," Pai said. "This plan gives a Washington bureaucracy a blank check to decide how Internet service providers deploy and manage their networks."

Finally, the proposal would allow the FCC to set broadband rates by determining when providers are charging unjust and unreasonable prices, Pai said.

Public Knowledge, a digital rights group that supports Title II rules, downplayed Pai's concerns. Pai's assertion that the proposal would give the FCC broad, utility-style rate-setting authority "is bogus," said Harold Feld, Public Knowledge's senior vice president.

The proposed rules would give the FCC some authority to protect consumers against dramatic price hikes, Feld said. "If Comcast were to double its price, the FCC could say, 'that's crazy, come up with something that passes the laugh test,'" he added.

Pai, never referred to the proposal as Wheeler's but instead repeatedly called it Obama's during the 45-minute press conference. In November, Obama called on the FCC to craft net neutrality rules that would regulate broadband like a public utility, and Pai echoed concerns from other Republicans that the president put "undue influence" on the independent agency.

But Wheeler, early last year, had originally proposed net neutrality rules that did not reclassify broadband under Title II. "It is very clear that outside political influences determined the trajectory of where the FCC is going," Pai said. "It is only now after we've received this 332-page document that it becomes clear that the president's plan to regulate the Internet is going to be the FCC's plan."

But U.S. presidential administrations have repeatedly weighed in on FCC proceedings in recent years, Public Knowledge's Feld said.

"The argument that, somehow, the agency has been compromised or the process has been compromised is simply not true," Feld said.

 

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