Donald Trump has just established how he wants to move forward when it comes to the internet. By appointing Ajit Pai last Jan. 23 as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he seems intent on eliminating key regulations that the agency has established under the Barack Obama administration.
Particularly, Trump is keen on seeing that net neutrality is obliterated, methodically dismantled as soon as possible to pave way for a deregulated telecoms industry.
Ajit Pai And Net Neutrality
Pai, who has been sitting as a commissioner at FCC since 2012, has announced that tearing down net neutrality is on top of this administration's objectives. In a recent pronouncement, he has told a number of telecom players that he will be revisiting the Title II Net Neutrality proceedings immediately.
Under Pai, the FCC, an agency known for policymaking that closely follows the agenda of the president's party, is expected to lead the charge in undoing the Open Internet Order, the body of rules that established net neutrality in the United States.
"In the months to come, we also need to remove outdated and unnecessary regulations," Pai declared after Trump's election. "The regulatory underbrush at the FCC is thick. We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation."
Pai has not been shy about his disdain for net neutrality in the past. His position rests on the argument that the problems that net neutrality is trying to address do not exist.
The Case Against Pai
Net neutrality proponents are naturally concerned. Although Pai's appointment has been expected, his elevation to the FCC chairmanship still sent chills to activists and consumer groups.
"Some of the things we've seen in his record are certainly problematic for consumers and for competition," Chris Lewis, vice president of the communications advocacy nonprofit Public Knowledge, told The Verge. "Whether it's his opposition to open internet rules, or opposition to basic privacy online, or opposition to the effort to extend the Lifeline program subsidies to broadband."
For those wondering what the hoopla is all about and how Pai's appointment will impact their internet usage, net neutrality is a policy that requires ISPs to treat all data on the web equally, banning any form of discrimination as well as variations on charges imposed on users, content, website, application, and platform, among others. The idea behind it is that the internet is a public utility, hence, the need for regulation.
Without this regulatory mechanism, ISPs are free to manipulate a user's internet speeds, throttling the speed for those who are consuming high bandwidth. They could also discriminate in favor of those who can pay more according to IP address and communications protocol, among other practices. These are the reason why critics argue that Pai is only out to protect corporate interests.