FCC Chair and Commisioner Ajit Pai on Net Neutrality

May 2, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission last week revealed a plan that would roll back net Obama era neutrality rules. These are the rules that make it illegal for internet service providers to slow down or speed up your access to a certain website. During this River to River conversation, host Ben Kieffer talks with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai about net neutrality and the role of the FCC in a changing media landscape. 

Pai says the rule change is necessary to encourage internet service providers to expand access to rural areas. 

"Going forward, our goal is two-fold. We want to preserve the free and open internet, and we want to make sure smaller companies have an incentive to build these networks. If we don’t do this, rural communities, smaller areas, are going to be left on the wrong side of the digital divide," he says. 

Critics say that changing these rules will negatively affect consumers and people who rely on the internet to do their work. The idea that smaller service providers would be able to expand and create competition in rural areas is also a controversial claim, according to Iowa State University computer and electrical engineering professor Doug Jacobsen. 

"I’m interested in the provider side, as far as what the removal of these guarantees of equal access and what effect that will have. There isn’t a lot of competition in rural Iowa," he says. 

The FCC will be voting on a rule change on May 18, after which a public comment period will open.