On the First Day, Trump Started to Kill Net Neutrality (Maybe)

If you’re in the US, it might be time to start monitoring your download speeds and how long it takes to load websites: Net neutrality might be on the way out.

Within two hours of taking the oath of office among that “standing room only” (except not really) crowd in Washington, DC, Donald Trump signed an order naming Ajit Pai to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Pai has been a commissioner on the FCC since President Obama appointed him and, for the past three years, has been the senior-most Republican member of the board, Politico reports. As a result, he wouldn’t need to go before the Senate for a confirmation hearing, the public questioning process that has already uncovered that the nominee for secretary of education hates public schools and the would-be secretary of energy doesn’t know what his job would entail.

Under the previous commissioner, Tom Wheeler, Pai has been an outspoken opponent of net neutrality regulations. Net neutrality, which has been called a “solution in search of a problem” by many Republicans and telecommunication executives during the Obama administration, means the internet can’t be slowed down or providers forced to pay a fee in order to give users the same access to websites. Under the regulations, enacted in June 2015, the internet is regulated like a utility and no preferential treatment– or intentional delays for opposing providers–is permitted and any company found to be in violation of the regulations can be fined.

Despite claims there’s no issue to be addressed, several companies have already been fined for violating the regulations.

Politico reports that Pai was in New York last Monday with Trump and was believed to be the easy selection to chair the FCC under the new administration.

Described by reporters Alex Byers and Tony Romm as “a fierce and loyal critic of many regulations passed by the commission’s Democratic majority,” it is probably a safe bet that Pai, once he’s in the driver’s seat and joined by other Republican commissioners, will begin to “start the process of undoing the net neutrality order and pursuing other deregulatory efforts.”



The current nod might only be temporary, but that’s unlikely: “Pai and fellow GOP Commissioner Mike O’Reilly, for example, said last month that they will ‘seek to revisit’ the net neutrality rules ‘as soon as possible,'” Politico reports. Additionally, last fall, Pai released the “Digital Empowerment Agenda,” a four-point course of action he insists will “help spur investment in internet networks and close the digital divide between rich and poor.”

People, of course, not companies. Because, y’know, capitalism and deregulation and jobs. Of course.


On his resume, by the way, are previous stints as a policy lawyer for the Department of Justice, Senate Judiciary Committee and the FCC (before becoming a commissioner); he’s also worked on behalf of Verizon and as a telecommunications attorney for Jenner & Block.

Let the games begin.


Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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