How Trump’s New FCC Chair Is Already Slashing Regulations

January 31, 2017, 5:49 PM UTC
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee hearing on "Examining the Proposed FCC Privacy Rules" on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2016. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM AFP/Getty Images

The new Republican chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, vowed to pare back outdated commission regulations, but declined to say if he will move quickly to overturn the Obama administration’s landmark net neutrality rules.

One top priority is “to remove unnecessary or counterproductive regulations from the books,” Pai told reporters Tuesday after he chaired his first meeting. “We want to make sure that our regulations match the realities of the modern marketplace.”

Pai, who was tapped by President Donald Trump this month to run the FCC, in December vowed to take a “weed whacker” to unnecessary FCC rules. He opposed many rules imposed by the Obama administration, including net neutrality, broadband privacy, and media ownership limits.

The net neutrality rules bar Internet access protections from slowing consumer access to web content. Internet providers fear net neutrality rules make it harder to manage Internet traffic and make investment in additional capacity less likely. The Republican-controlled Congress is also considering rewriting the net neutrality rules.

Pai opposed the Obama administration’s 2015 net neutrality rules that reclassified broadband providers and treated them like a public utility. He said Tuesday he supports a “free and open Internet” but opposes the reclassification.

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In December, Pai told some small broadband providers in a letter that it would not enforce the “enhanced transparency” rules. He declined to say if he is considering not enforcing net neutrality rules for all companies even if they remain on the books.

“We haven’t made any determinations,” Pai said.

The FCC on Tuesday voted to abolish a requirement that cable systems, commercial TV, and radio broadcasters retain some public inspection files.

On Friday, Pai withdrew proposed reforms of the $45 billion business data services market and $20 billion pay TV set top box market. He declined to say if he will formally close any pending dockets.

A number of cable and wireless trade associations on Friday asked the FCC to put new broadband privacy rules on hold while the Republican-controlled FCC considers whether to scrap the rules.

Pai declined to say if thought the AT&T (T) Time Warner (TWX) merger should be subject to FCC review. The companies said this month they only expect a review by the U.S. Justice Department.