Big Internet Firms to Oppose GOP Plans to Roll Back Net-Neutrality Rules

Big Internet Firms to Oppose GOP Plans to Roll Back Net-Neutrality Rules

The Internet Association trade group has told the Federal Communications Commission chairman that the Obama-era rules are ‘vital’ to a ‘free and open internet’

By John D. McKinnon April 12, 2017 6:00 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Big internet firms on Tuesday told federal regulators that they would oppose Republicans’ plans to roll back net Obama-era neutrality rules, adding to signs of a looming political clash.

The Internet Association, a trade group that includes companies such as of Netflix Inc. and Facebook Inc., told Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in a meeting that it “continues its vigorous support of the FCC’s [net-neutrality] order,” the group said in a regulatory filing. It added that the net-neutrality rules are “a vital component of the free and open internet.”

The FCC declined to comment.

Individual companies involved in the group, such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, didn’t comment on the meeting, but the organization itself indicated its members were united in their view.

“The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition, and innovation online,” the group said. “In other words, existing net-neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact.”

Tuesday’s meeting followed one last week in which Mr. Pai, who was appointed chairman by President Donald Trump, suggested privately to telecommunications industry groups that he is aiming to propose reversing the FCC’s 2015 net-neutrality order soon.

Those rules require internet-service providers such as cable and wireless firms to treat all internet traffic the same. The internet-service providers generally have opposed the rules, arguing that the FCC went too far in reclassifying them as common carriers. They say they support the basic outlines of net neutrality, however.

The plan, still being developed by Mr. Pai, apparently is expected to attempt to preserve basic elements of net neutrality, such as no blocking or throttling, while eventually shifting oversight responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission and reversing the reclassification.

After his meeting last week, word of his plans quickly spread through the internet community, and activists said they were mobilizing to fight it, setting up a replay of epic battles in 2014 and 2015 over net neutrality.

Many consumer groups and congressional Democrats argue that the current rules—including reclassification—are necessary to preserve competition. Telecommunications firms have said little publicly.

The Internet Association’s regulatory filing holds out some potential room for compromise. The association said that while it “continues its work to protect consumers by maintaining existing FCC rules, its primary focus is on the end result—meaningful net-neutrality rules that withstand the test of time.”

The association has previously argued that reclassification of internet-service providers as common carriers isn’t necessary to effective open-internet regulation. Still, Tuesday’s regulatory filing suggests the group has begun to mount a vigorous defense of the existing FCC rules. Notably, the group said the rules should be enforced by the FCC.

Any effort by Mr. Pai to tamper with the reclassification is also likely to be met by fierce opposition from consumer groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Write to John D. McKinnon at


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