By Timothy B. Lee
Jan 26, 2017
When the Federal Communications Commission established strong network neutrality rules in 2015, its leading critic was Ajit Pai, a member of the commission’s Republican minority. Pai vowed to repeal the rule. Now, President Donald Trump has elevated Pai to chair, giving him a chance to follow through on his pledge.
In one sense, this is a victory for network neutrality opponents. But they shouldn’t be celebrating too much, because there won’t be a Republican in the White House forever. The next time a Democrat wins the presidency, we can expect the FCC to bring network neutrality regulations right back.
This back and forth won’t please anyone, but what’s worse is that the instability will necessarily undercut the main benefits of either approach to the issue. Because the cases both for and against net neutrality hinge on creating stable expectations.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) is worried about the prospect of endless partisan conflict over network neutrality. As he put it at the State of the Net conference on Monday:
“Complex and ambiguous regulations that shift with the political winds aren’t in anyone’s best interest. For people to get the maximum benefit possible from the internet, they need certainty about what the rules are and, most importantly, what the rules will be in the coming years. The only way to achieve this is for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation.”