Online Companies Meet FCC in Bid to Preserve Net Neutrality Rule

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(Bloomberg) — Online companies met with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and urged him not to gut the net neutrality rules that protect their traffic, a week after he met with broadband providers that have tried to kill the Obama-era regulations.

“Existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact,” officials with the Internet Association said in a meeting with Pai on April 11, according to a disclosure filing prepared by the trade group. Its members include Alphabet Inc.’s search engine leader Google, social media giant Facebook Inc. and online retailer Inc.

See also: GOP Said Moving Toward `Unenforceable’ Version of Net Neutrality

The online companies rely on the likes of AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. to reach customers, and have supported the FCC’s rule passed by Democrats in 2015 that forbids internet service providers from blocking or slowing rivals’ web traffic. Pai, a Republican, voted against the rule that he says allows the government too heavy a hand.

Pai was elevated to chairman by President Donald Trump in January, and last week he met with broadband trade groups and discussed leaving responsibility for fair treatment of web traffic with the Federal Trade Commission, according to two people familiar with his meeting. Attendees included CTIA and USTelecom, which both count AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc. as members, and NCTA-the Internet & Television Association, representing cable providers.

Critics say regulation by the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces company pledges to their customers, is weaker than the hard-and-fast rules set by the FCC. Pai’s plan may be put up for a vote by the FCC as early as May.

In the April 11 meeting with Pai, Internet Association President Michael Beckerman and General Counsel Abigail Slater called the FCC’s existing rule “a vital component of the free and open Internet,” according to the disclosure filing.

“The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition, and innovation online,” according to the filing.

Pai has said he favors an open internet and opposes the agency’s claim for strong legal authority over broadband providers known as Title II — the same grounding that enables close regulation of telephone providers. Ending Title II authority eliminates the chance the FCC could regulate broadband rates — a power that Democrats who passed the rule said they declined to exercise.

Broadband providers challenged the FCC’s rule and lost in federal appeals court.

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