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President Trump Backs Effort to ‘Reverse’ Net Neutrality Rules

Variety logo Variety 3/30/2017 Ted Johnson
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President Donald Trump supports efforts to roll back rules of the road for the internet, in what White House spokesman Sean Spicer described as regulatory overreach.

In one tweet sent in 2014, Trump had opposed the FCC’s net neutrality rules, adopted in 2015, that reclassify internet providers as common carriers. That regulatory move allowed the agency to impose rules banning internet providers from favoring one type of content over another.

“The President pledged to reverse this type of federal overreach in which bureaucrats in Washington take the interests of one group of companies over the interests of others, picking winners and losers,” White House spokesman Spicer told reporters on Thursday.

Trump is expected to sign legislation that rolls back another set of FCC policies, which restrict internet providers from sharing or selling subscriber information on internet usage without consent. In the past week, the House and the Senate each passed the legislation to scuttle those privacy rules, which had yet to go into effect, under the Congressional Review Act.

“The previous administration, in an attempt to treat internet service providers differently than edge providers, such as Google and Facebook, reclassified them as common carriers — much like a hotel or another retail outlet — and opened the door to an unfair regulatory framework,” Spicer told reporters. “This will allow all service providers to be treated fairly and consumer protection and privacy concerns to be reviewed on an equal playing field.”

Spicer was referring to the fact that sites like Google and Facebook operate under a different set of privacy rules overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.

Trump’s choice to lead the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been a critic of the existing net neutrality rules, although he has yet to say if and how he plans to reverse them. The rules prohibit internet providers from blocking or degrading content, and from selling speedier access to the consumer.

Public interest groups have pledged to fight any effort to repeal the current rules, whether from the FCC or in Congress. Groups like Fight for the Future have vowed to place billboards in districts of congressional representatives who voted to scuttle the privacy rules, and on Wednesday Stephen Colbert talked about the legislation on his late-night show.

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