Net neutrality might return when controversial FCC chairman resigns


FCC chairman Ajit Pai isn’t down with China Mobile coming to the United States.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is on his way out, which possibly might bring back net neutrality.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC

The man who ended net neutrality will exit the Federal Communications Commission along with the Trump administration in January. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was in office for less than four years, but brought significant change.

No change was as dramatic as ending the rules that prevented broadband service providers from slowing down the internet traffic of rival companies.

Pai will have to step down as chairman on January 20 when President-elect Joe Biden takes office, but could have remained an FCC commissioner until July. He said Monday that he’ll instead resign on January 20.

The Biden administration will be able to replace him. Quite possibly with someone who’ll work to reinstate net neutrality. Plus, there’ll be a majority of Democrats on the commission to support the new chairman.

Why net neutrality matters

Internet service providers lobbied to end net neutrality under Pai’s watch so they could charge some customers more for enhanced access to their networks. Rather than all traffic being treated equally, Netflix could, for example, pay Comcast for a “fast lane” that gets video to customers more quickly and reliably. In addition, ISPs are service providers, too. Without net neutrality, Comcast could give its own video-streaming service Peacock much better performance than Netflix.

Basically, the ISPs argue that they built the networks and they should be allowed to do anything with them they want. Advocates for net neutrality point out that the broadband networks were built with the help of government subsidies.

Advocates also argue that the internet is too important for a handful of big ISPs to wield control over which companies succeed and which fail. To extend the examples, they say it shouldn’t be Comcast’s decision whether viewers watch Netflix or Peacock.



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