Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai said Thursday he met with Silicon Valley leaders this week to discuss ways to protect consumers, even as he's working to eliminate the controversial Obama-era "net neutrality" regulation that provided some level of protection.
Obama's net neutrality regulation was aimed at making sure people can't have certain content from companies prioritized just because people choose to use competitor companies for their Internet service. But that rule was also opposed by many Republicans and the telecommunications industry, since it subjected Internet service providers to the regulations that govern utilities.
The net neutrality rules were approved by the FCC in 2015. Pai is poised to reverse the regulations, and the agency under his chairmanship has already voted to weaken them.
But Pai declined to say whether his Monday talks with the companies, which included Facebook, Cisco, Oracle, Intel and others, involved how to unwind net neutrality. He also repeatedly told reporters he would not discuss any current pending proceedings in the works.
"Outside of the context of any pending proceeding, I've simply soliciting thoughts on how to secure the online consumer protections that people have talked about," he said.
Pai also responded to a report that he met this week with the Internet Association, a trade group representing companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon that want to preserve net neutrality. On those meetings, Pai said "the goal here is pretty simple. I've been consistent in my view that I favor a free and open Internet and that I oppose Title II."
Title II is the classification that treats ISPs like utilities, and major telecom players have complained of the undue burden on competition and threats to innovation and infrastructure investment.
An FCC spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that the agency had no further comment on the meetings beyond what Pai said.
The press conference followed a meeting in which the FCC voted to pass multiple rules. Along party lines, the agency voted to ease regulations on the market for data services and to ease limits on TV station ownership, which could result in more mergers.