Kim Hart David McCabe
The FCC’s rules banning internet providers from favoring some content on their network over other content — beloved by tech companies and despised by telecom carriers — might not last much longer.
Ever since the FCC adopted the rules two years ago, internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, along with Congressional Republicans, have pledged to dismantle or drastically weaken them. Now with Trump in charge, they can do it.
It’s a two-front war: The dismantling effort could happen in Congress, at the FCC, or both. New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the most senior Republican on the panel and a vocal critic of the rules, can start the reversal process on day one. But that doesn’t mean he will. He may opt to let Republicans in Congress resolve the issue with legislation. And both lawmakers and commissioners will be watching what the courts do on the issue.
Here’s how it could play out, according to experts and key lawmakers.
At the FCC:
- Pai can simply decide not to enforce the rules on the books. But stopping there doesn’t do anything to prevent Democrats from enforcing them again after the next leadership change. Republicans want to eradicate the current rules once and for all. (Pai may agree with the general idea of an open internet, but he’s adamant that treating broadband like a utility isn’t the way to do it.)
- Pai could start a formal process to unwind the rules more permanently, inviting a repeat of the millions of comments that came in from the public the last time the FCC had this debate (Hello, Jon Oliver). The public could also comment on whether to reverse the decision to reclassify broadband service under the law, which gave the FCC broader authority to regulate ISPs.
- He could use a procedural tactic to scale back the commission’s expanded authority more quickly without seeking public comment. He would still need to get comments on whether to keep the rules specifically banning blocking, throttling and fast lanes.