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Silicon Valley is beginning to fight the Trump administration’s net neutrality plan

The D.C. lobbying group for Facebook, Google and others tells FCC Chairman Ajit Pai they have their doubts.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Testifies To House Committee On The FCC's Net Neutrality Rule Chip Somodevilla / Getty

A lobbying group representing Facebook, Google, Twitter and other web giants told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission yesterday that it shouldn’t weaken net neutrality rules — an early warning shot at the ideas contemplated by the agency’s new Republican chairman, Ajit Pai.

Under Pai’s draft plan, which he has not yet presented publicly, internet providers like AT&T, Comcast*, Charter and Verizon could soon escape tough regulation: They would only have to promise in writing that they won’t block web pages or slow down their competitors’ traffic, sources have said.

Such a voluntary system is a stark departure from the strict rules imposed by the Obama administration, however, and it prompted the Internet Association, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group, to tell Pai privately yesterday that it has its doubts.

“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.”

Under Pai’s system, ISPs that break their net neutrality promises would be subject to punishment not by the FCC, but another Washington agency, the Federal Trade Commission. The Internet Association is no fan of that setup, either, and it told Pai during their meeting that net neutrality should continue to be “enforced by the expert agency, namely the FCC.” (The FTC is seen as an easier cop to beat on net neutrality.)

The organization of web companies added Pai’s replacement plan should outlaw so-called online fast lanes, which otherwise would allow the likes of AT&T and Comcast to charge tech giants for faster delivery of music, movies, TV shows or other streaming content. And the Internet Association stressed Pai’s final order should apply to fixed broadband internet access as well as mobile internet alike. Wireless carriers, for the most part, previously have said they need greater flexibility to deal with smartphone users whose download habits congest their networks.

The leading lobbying organizations for the telecom industry, like USTelecom, also have met with Pai in recent days — and they even got a briefing of his draft net neutrality plans. They did not disclose the details of their discussions, however, because Pai hasn’t technically opened a formal FCC proceeding to consider new net neutrality rules.

The Internet Association, in contrast, met with Pai on a range of issues, including net neutrality, and it included the details of its conversation in a document to be published Wednesday.

* Comcast, via its NBCUniversal unit, is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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