CNET News Video
FCC chair defends his net neutrality rollbackAjit Pai says limiting internet regulation isn't a partisan issue.
Hey, Maggie Reardon here. I'm standing outside the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC where I just sat down for a chat with Chairman Ajit Pai. He's proposing a rollback of Obama era net neutrality regulation. These rules passed back in 2015, make sure your broadband provider can't block or slow down your access to the net. So I've been covering the net neutrality issue for at least a dozen years. Why do we have to go through this again? Well I think all of us favor a free and open Internet and the only question for the FCC at this point is what is the best legal framework for securing some of those core values that have given us the digital economy that is the envy of the world. That's the part of the conversation that we'll be kicking on May 18th. Okay, so I know a big piece of this is this so called Title 2 regulation, that's the utility style legal framework that the last administration built their net neutrality rules around. But I also noticed in the proposal that you're asking the question, should the bright line rules, that no blocking, the no throttling. Should those even be rules? I mean. What do you think should there be rules to protect net neutrality and keep the internet open or should we just let the broadband providers police themselves? Well I continually said that I favor free and open internet and the Clinton era light touch approach is the one that I think has produced unparalleled benefits for consumers. So from an administrative perspective. When we take off the conversation, we want it to be a robust conversation. To tee up all of the different possibilities and let the American people give us their input as to what they think the best framework should be. So do you think broadband providers are really capable of not discriminating against somebody like a Netflix or a Not even yet developed Netflix. [LAUGH] This is precisely why some people say Title 2 is necessary some people say no regulation is necessary, I've consistently said that look, the clean air [INAUDIBLE] approach is the right one, let the market place develop, and if we see an example of any competitive context, then we can take targeted actions to address that problem but That's part of the approach that we hope to embrace on a bi-partisan basis going forward. Just like it was embraced in 1996 by president Clinton in a republican congress. So this issue has become so partisan.>> Yeah. We've got republicans and democrats really entrenched on either side. Why is that? I'm not sure. Some people speculate that because our politics generally are much more polarized now, that has infected communications policy. I'm not sure what the answer is. But I'm committed to making sure that I do everything I can to lead the agency in a bipartisan basis. And when it comes to broadband appointment, for instance, We got several votes under my chairmanship, that have been unanimous in nature. Getting more broadband to unserved America. Removing some of the regulations that stand in the way of carriers being able to deliver digital opportunity to citizens, who are on the wrong side of the digital divide. And those are the nets and bolts of work that the FCC traditionally has done. And I'm proud to say, we've done it with Republicans united with Democrats. But it does seem that there are still a lot of issues that are Republican-Democrats, and no body seems to be bulging, I mean are these based on sort of traditional core Republican values, versus core Democratic values or where is the divide here? I'm not sure where it is, partly it might be just because of our politics, generally as they say it but I continue to believe that, look when it comes to broadband there is no republican affiliation, or democratic affiliation to a particular idea. I met with the senator recently and outside his door he had a poster of JOK, let us not search for the republican answer, let us not search for the democratic answer, lets search for the right answer. And, naive though it might be, I continue to believe that at the end of the day, Americans want better, faster, cheaper Internet. And the ideas from the FCC that get us there don't know a partisan affiliation. And so that's my spirit with which I'm gonna continue to embrace this job. So should Congress step in and do something, I mean this issue has flip flopped a couple of times and that is creating uncertainty in the market, I would imagine so? Yeah, I mean, I think ultimately that's the best long term solution and part of the problem we seen in the last several years is that The agency increasingly is trying to shoehorn the marketplace of 2017 or 2015, or 2010 into this round hole of 1934 legal frameworks or 1986. And ultimately I think it would be great for elected officials on a bipartisan basis to just tell us what you want the rules of the digital road to be. Those are the decisions I think, that ultimately stand the test of time and gain public support. And I'm convinced that people are acting in good faith, when they sit at the table. Could be able to reach that kinda of consensus. And Republicans have introduced something. But Democrats are a little hesitant. They're saying, this isn't the time. Do you think we're gonna get [UNKNOWN] in [UNKNOWN] census? I hope so. That's a decision that they will have to make based on their own political calculus. But if I can be of assistance and helping to flourish that consensus, I seem we're gonna be able to do so because as I said, ultimately, the Internet is so important that is important I think for elected officials that codify some of these key principles that we can move on to the Debates about how do we get more access out there to unserved Americans. And those are the issues that I think the SEC is squarely empowered to tackle. And I'm committed to tackling them if we can. Okay well thank you so much for letting us come in here and do this interview. We really appreciate the conversation. THanks Maggie it's been great. Okay. This is just the beginning of the net neutrality Rewrite. On May 18th, Pai's proposal will be opened for the public to comment. He promised to have a new set of rules finished by the end of the year. But all this could change if Congress decides to push through its own set of rules. I'm Maggie Reardon, with CNET.