FCC’s Pai crafts new ideas to overturn net neutrality rules

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has hatched a draft plan to overturn the controversial net neutrality rules championed by his predecessor, Tom Wheeler.

Citing people close to a meeting Pai had with trade associations this week, WSJ reported that he could publicly reveal his plans sometime this month.

Unsurprisingly, Pai’s proposal would keep the main principles of net neutrality intact, but giving the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the power to enforce the rules. At the same time, the plans would likely overturn the application of Title II of the Telecom Act in the rules.

Previously, the FTC oversaw most internet-related business. By reclassifying service providers under Title II, the FTC had to relinquish its oversight of broadband service providers.

Related: Pai’s ascension to the FCC chairman throne heralds direct threat to net neutrality, BDS reform

If the FTC regains oversight of the rules, broadband providers would still have to respect net neutrality principles such as no blocking or paid prioritization of internet traffic. This would allow the FTC to punish violators for deceptive or unfair trade practices.

Under the plans developed during Wheeler’s tenure as FCC chairman, ISPs were required to provide equal treatment to internet traffic. Since the rules were passed in 2015, large telcos and cable operators as well as Pai and Republicans have complained that the rules would hinder broadband investments.

Although a federal appeals court shot down a challenge from telecom companies to the rules in 2016, ISPs continue to make appeals to change the rules.

Any revoking of the current rules will face a strong challenge from Democrats that argue net neutrality rules are a key element in keeping the internet competitive.

Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a staunch net neutrality supporter, said during a recent hearing that fears that net neutrality rules are inhibiting service provider investments are nothing more than a myth.

“The Census Bureau reported that the U.S. broadband and telecommunications industry spent over $87 billion in capital expenditures in 2015,” Markey said.

According one person close to the matter, the WSJ report said that Pai’s plans could begin to be adopted during either the FCC’s monthly meeting in either May or June.