During a press event yesterday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that next up on President Trump’s telecom agenda is to roll back the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet net neutrality rules. However, according to some reports, that might not happen as quickly as Congress’ recent move to rescind rules that prevented internet service providers from selling users’ data.
As noted by the New York Times, Spicer said that President Trump had “pledged to reverse this overreach” created by net neutrality. He said the FCC’s net neutrality rules, passed in 2015, are an example of “bureaucrats in Washington” placing unfair restrictions on internet service providers, essentially “picking winners and losers” in the telecom market.
In comments aimed at the wider telecom market, Spicer said Trump will “continue to fight Washington red tape that stifles American innovation, job creation and economic growth.”
However, as the NYT reports, the process to repeal net neutrality likely won’t follow the same procedure as Congress’ recent vote to remove broadband privacy rules—since those rules were only a year old, Congress was able to use the Congressional Review Act to move forward with its action. The FCC’s net neutrality rules, however, are more than two years old and so can’t be reviewed by that same act.
Thus, it may fall on newly installed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to rescind the FCC’s Open Internet rules, which he voted against when he was a commissioner at the agency under former chief Tom Wheeler.
Nonetheless, it comes as little surprise that Trump’s White House is turning its attention toward net neutrality. Trump didn’t mention the topic much during his campaign for president, but he tweeted in 2014 that “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.”
A wide range of telecom companies have argued against the FCC’s net neutrality guidelines. For example, T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter in December cheered the incoming administration of Trump, arguing that less regulation—including the dismantling of the FCC’s net neutrality rules—and less onerous corporate taxes would be “positive for my industry.”
Indeed, the agency’s 2015 rules were a do-over of previous rules that didn’t hold up in court against a lawsuit filed by Verizon.
In general, the FCC’s net neutrality rules are intended to prevent internet service providers from prioritizing some types of internet traffic over other types, essentially creating speedier internet lanes for high-paying customers. However, internet giants like Facebook, Google and Netflix, alongside a host of public internet groups, have voiced support for the rules.