Ajit Pai (pictured), chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), met with telecommunications trade groups to talk about reversing the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, and wants internet service providers to voluntarily agree to having an open internet, Reuters reported.
The fate of US net neutrality rules, introduced under former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015, have been the subject of speculation since the President Trump appointed Pai to take over from Wheeler in January.
Pai believes the proposed FCC internet privacy rules were unfair as they applied to providers under the FCC’s watch – including telecoms companies – but not internet-centred companies including Facebook and Google.
Net neutrality – filed in US law under the Open Internet Order – prohibits ISPs from offering a better quality of service for certain online content to the detriment of other material.
Pai now wants internet providers to voluntarily agree to not obstruct or slow consumer access to web content, sources told Reuters.
He wants companies to commit in writing to open internet principles and include them in their terms of service, with the Federal Trade Commission then making sure they comply.
It is unclear if regulators could legally compel internet providers to adopt these principles without the existing net neutrality rules, the report said, adding Pai plans to reveal his proposal in late April and put it to an initial vote in May or June.
Operators including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast have said net neutrality rules make it harder to manage internet traffic and make investment in additional capacity less likely.
AT&T and some trade groups sued the FCC in 2015 over the rules, but Democrats and privacy advocates say net neutrality is essential to keeping the internet open.
Since taking the reins in January, Pai made several statements outlining his intent to review and rollback some of the privacy and net neutrality rules introduced during the previous administration.
The FCC subsequently introduced new transparency policies, closed an investigation into zero-rating data services and, among other measures, approved the use of unlicensed spectrum to increase the bandwidth available for wireless services in the country.