In one of his most high-profile appearances since the killing of net neutrality rules last year, the chief U.S. telecom policy regulator insisted the move was widely misunderstood and would promote more internet freedom.
Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, FCC chair Ajit Pai, while avoiding using the term “net neutrality” in his prepared remarks, insisted the move would still allow for oversight of telecom carriers while simply returning internet regulations to a state that existed for almost two decades.
“The bottom line is that we had a free and open internet for two decades before 2015,” he said. “We we will have a free and open internet going forward.”
Pai had previously been scheduled to deliver a keynote at CES in early January, but canceled after receiving death threats. But MWC, officially a gathering of the world’s largest telecom carriers, who tend to be against net neutrality, offered a somewhat friendlier venue.
Still, Pai spoke just after Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner for Digital Single Market, who stoutly defended the need for net neutrality to ensure open and equal access.
“I do not want a digital motorway for a lucky few while some others use a digital dirt track,” Ansip said. “Access to the internet is a right. It has to be open to everyone.”
— Roger Cheng (@RogerWCheng) February 26, 2018
But Pai stuck to his guns. Saying that there “had been a fair bit of misinformation” about the decision, he noted that the FCC would continue to be vigilant and act against any network abuses. “This is light-touch regulation,” he said. “Nobody gets a free pass.”
Pai said his confidence in making the move was based on the results of the rules prior to 2015. “We had a market-based approach to regulation that gave us an internet economy that was the envy of the world,” he said.
He said the country’s wireless market remains hyper-competitive, and said it was necessary to keep it that way to encourage infrastructure investments in new services like 5G networks. As evidence, he cited the ubiquitous wireless advertising on television.
“If you don’t believe this market place is competitive, try watching the commercials shown during a typical hour of American television,” he said.