Wrapping up his first monthly open meeting as FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai promised Tuesday that the agency will be “taking a look at . . . legacy regulations and removing them if they are no longer necessary.” Meanwhile, on the eve of Tuesday’s meeting, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) wrote to Pai to urge the FCC “to protect freedom of speech by maintaining and enforcing” the 2015 Open Internet order, which reclassified broadband Internet services as telecommunications services pursuant to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.
In keeping with the spirit of Pai’s pledge, the FCC voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate public inspection file rules that required (1) commercial broadcasters to retain copies of correspondence from viewers and listeners, and (2) cable operators to maintain and allow public inspection of the location of a cable system’s principal headend. Pai also confirmed that he had removed from circulation orders on business data services and cable set-top boxes that had been drafted during the tenure of former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, explaining that the agency is “still making determinations.” Although the FCC is exempt from the recent Trump Administration order directing executive branch agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new one, Pai pledged that the FCC will take steps to “remove unnecessary or counterproductive regulations from the books.” Stressing that the FCC’s rules should “match the realities of the modern marketplace,” Pai asserted: “that means making sure that those regulations . . . remain necessary in the interest of competition and, more generally, the public interest.”
Commenting on the 2015 Open Internet order from which he and fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had dissented, Pai told reporters “we have not made any determinations” on whether the Open Internet order and related rules reclassifying broadband under Title II will be amended or repealed. Nevertheless, in his letter, Franken reminded Pai about his obligation “to protect Americans’ access to diverse information sources and to ensure that the Internet remains a tool for American innovation” as he remarked that Pai’s opposition to the Open Internet order raises “serious concerns.” Maintaining that the Open Internet order was adopted “after the FCC received nearly four million public comments, the majority of which supported strong net neutrality rules,” Franken thus called on Pai to “respect the political process and the voices that made themselves so abundantly clear.”