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Trump Picks Staunch Opponents of Net Neutrality to Oversee FCC

November 21, 2016, 3:43 PM UTC

President-elect Donald Trump formally named two staunch opponents of net neutrality to oversee his policies for the agency that created the rules to prevent discrimination against Internet sites and online services.

Jeff Eisenach, an economist who has been on Verizon’s payroll, and Mark Jamison, who formerly worked on Sprint’s lobbying team and now heads the University of Florida’s Public Utility Research Center, on Monday were named to Trump’s “agency landing team” for the Federal Communications Commission.

Both have written against the imposition of net neutrality rules, which prohibit Internet service providers like Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VERIZON) from discriminating against any online content or services. Jamison also strongly opposed an effort by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to crack the cable industry’s set top box monopoly.

Eisenach, who worked at the Federal Trade Commission during the Reagan administration, has been a leading voice in Washington against net neutrality. He is co-chairman of the communications, media, and Internet practice at the consulting firm National Economic Research Associates. In one piece, he called net neutrality rules “crony capitalism” that would “prove highly damaging.”

Jamison, who got his PhD from the University of Florida in 2001, worked for Sprint’s (S) lobbying team in the 1990s as manager for regulatory policy. He has written against several policies pursued by Wheeler’s FCC. The chairman’s justification for cable set top box rules relies on “bad math and falsehoods masquerading as facts,” Jamison wrote in one piece. In June, he called for Congress to repeal the net neutrality rules. “Congress may be the only way we can achieve an economics-grounded and technology-grounded policy for the Internet,” he wrote.

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With the advice of Eisenach and Jamison, Trump could make appointments to the FCC who would seek to repeal the net neutrality rules.

Without the rules, cord cutters and other fans of popular streaming video services like Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu, could see their bills rise as Internet service providers tack on new fees or impose tighter data usage caps. A deeper concern is that even if large, established web sites survive such tactics, innovative online upstarts may never get off the ground.

A faster repeal could occur via legislation. Republicans in Congress have been eager to overturn the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules. But the threat of an Obama veto prevented the maneuver to kill the rules passed by the FCC in February 2015, later upheld in court in June. Long-time telecom analyst Craig Moffett wrote earlier this month that legislation repealing the net neutrality rules looks “likely” given the results of the election.

Optimism that the Trump administration will dump the net neutrality rules fueled a mini-rally in cable stocks after the election, while shares of companies that might be hurt, such as Netflix, slumped.