FCC's Ajit Pai: Competition 'Best Tonic' To Blocking By Broadband Providers

Ajit Pai, one of two Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission, has made no secret of his dislike for the new net neutrality rules.

Not only did he vote against the rules, but he's spent much of the last two weeks slamming the FCC's move to Congress.

Yesterday, he urged lawmakers to take away net neutrality enforcement funds. Today, he told a House Judiciary Committee that open Internet regulations will discourage Internet service providers from making the kinds of investments necessary to upgrade their networks and boost speeds.

The FCC's Feb. 26 net neutrality order reclassifies Internet access as a utility service, and imposes common carrier regulations on providers. Specifically, the rules prohibit providers from blocking or throttling content, and from discriminating among content companies by charging extra fees for prioritized delivery.

When Pai was asked early in the hearing how he would advise consumers who found themselves blocked or throttled, he answered that the “best tonic” against that kind of conduct was competition.



Of course, if consumers could easily change providers every time their broadband company did something questionable, last year's net neutrality debates would have looked very different.

But the reality is, consumers have very little choice of providers -- especially those offering high-speed Web access. In January, the FCC reported that only around 83% of the U.S. population can obtain broadband at speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream -- the current definition of the service. What's more, even where service of 25 Mbps is available, just 37% of U.S. residents are able to choose from two or more broadband providers offering that speed.

The same day that the FCC passed net neutrality regulations, the agency also voted to lift state laws that restrict towns from building their own muni-broadband networks. That move obviously can make broadband service more competitive, by making it easier for towns to create services that will pose a challenge to the incumbent providers. Pai dissented from that vote as well.  

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