Meanwhile, supporters of strong net neutrality rules vow to fight any effort to repeal the rules and rescind the classification of broadband as a regulated service. About 4 million people submitted comments to the FCC during its recent net neutrality rulemaking proceeding, with the large majority favoring strong net neutrality rules, supporters noted.
Net neutrality advocates will look to fire up that crowd again if Pai or Trump move to kill the rules.
Without Title II authority for the rules, broadband providers may be able to change websites for paid traffic prioritization, said Holmes Wilson, co-founder of digital rights group Fight for the Future.
Recent court rulings were "pretty clear" that the FCC can't ban paid prioritization without Title II authority, he said by email. "If they’re talking about reclassifying back out of Title II, people should see that as an underhanded way to kill net neutrality and give companies like Comcast free reign to shake down your favorite sites," Wilson added.
Pai and the FCC would need to explain a major shift in policy two years after the FCC passed its rules, supporters of the regulations said.
"Chairman Pai's FCC cannot move quickly to dismantle protections supported by the vast majority of the American people," said Matt Wood, policy director at digital rights group Free Press. "While Pai's boss, Donald Trump, may have little respect for the rule of law, administrative law still binds the FCC."
Congress could pass legislation, but that's not a given, Wood added. That's "assuming this Congress can get anything done, unlike its recent do-nothing predecessors," he said. "But the current rules are the common-sense floor for any new law, not the overreach that members of the current majority in Congress and the FCC preposterously make them out to be."
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