170 groups ask FCC chairman to safeguard net neutrality; Pai testifies

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  March 8, 2017 at 1:00 PM
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March 8 (UPI) -- More than 170 organizations signed an open letter urging FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to safeguard net neutrality the day before he testified before Congress.

The letter is signed by organizations of different purposes including the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, MoveOn.org, Greenpeace USA, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the American Civil Liberties Union.

President Donald Trump in January nominated Pai, a supporter of deregulation and opponent of net neutrality, as the next chairman of Federal Communications Commission. On Tuesday, Trump nominated Pai to serve a five-year term as chairman.

In 2015, the FCC supported the Open Internet Order, which reclassified broadband Internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act -- meaning the FCC had the power to regulate the Internet.

In the FCC's rules to "protect the open Internet," cable companies are not allowed to charge websites more for faster loading times and no content can be blocked. The rules also apply to data services for mobile devices.

The organizations' letter is addressed to Pai, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Sen. John Thune and Committee Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson. Pai appeared before the committee Wednesday.

"We, the undersigned organizations ... urge you and your colleagues to oppose legislation and regulatory actions that would threaten net neutrality and roll back the important protections put in place by the FCC in 2015, and to continue to enforce the Open Internet Order as it stands," the organizations wrote.

Pai, 44, served as the senior Republican on the FCC and has experience as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Senate and briefly for Verizon before he began working for the FCC in 2012.

In his prepared remarks for the Senate hearing on FCC oversight, Pai said some of his key goals as FCC chairman is to make the agency more transparent, to increase broadband Internet access to more Americans, to put an end to robocalls and to promote innovation that is hampered by "outdated rules and bureaucratic inertia."

"Another key priority for the FCC is to create a regulatory environment in which innovation can thrive," Pai wrote in the remarks he delivered at the Committee hearing. "Entrepreneurs are constantly coming up with new technologies and services. But consumers aren't well-served when outdated rules and bureaucratic inertia stand in the way of bringing them to the market."

The Senate Committee asked Pai whether he agrees with Trump's assertion that the press is "the enemy of the American People!"

Pai said he would not "wade into the larger political debates" but believes that "every American enjoys the First Amendment protections guaranteed by the Constitution."

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