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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is expected to unveil new net neutrality plans on Wednesday

The announcement comes after Pai huddled with tech and telecom giants in recent weeks.

Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call / Getty Images

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will kick off the process to scrap the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules on Wednesday, according to four sources familiar with the matter.

In his latest move to relax regulation of the telecom industry, Pai will use a speech in Washington to repeat his opposition to the FCC’s existing approach, which subjects the likes of AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon to old telephone utility rules to ensure they aren’t blocking or slowing web traffic.

For the moment, Pai isn’t expected to articulate a replacement, the sources believe. Instead, he’s likely to solicit ideas from tech and telecom giants as well as public-interest advocates on an alternative legal approach for net neutrality. That formal exchange could begin as soon as May if Pai unveils what’s known as a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming days.

In the end, however, that could lead to net neutrality rules that are more voluntary in nature — an idea Pai himself has explored. The chairman in recent weeks has weighed whether the best system would see internet providers commit in writing to protect net neutrality. That’s a far cry from the Obama administration’s rules, and it could see another government agency — the Federal Trade Commission — keeping watch over the industry.

A spokesman for Pai declined to comment. The chairman will sketch out his plans at an event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday hosted by the conservative-leaning group FreedomWorks.

Pai’s expected unveiling follows a series of meetings with tech and telecom giants, including a private swing through Silicon Valley last week. There, he huddled with executives from Apple, Facebook, Intel and Oracle on a range of issues, including the future of net neutrality.

Speaking to reporters last week, Pai declined to comment on the public reports about his plans.

Instead, he stressed he’s been “consistent” in his view that he “favor[s] a free and open internet and that I oppose Title II,” a reference to the legal mechanism that the Obama administration tapped in order to advance its open internet rules. Many web giants, however, support Democrats’ earlier efforts.

* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.

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