Because it’s 2017, and nothing can just stay god-damned fixed anymore, it looks like the hard-won fight for net neutrality is about to be reignited and potentially overturned. The New York Times reports that FCC chairman Ajit Pai—who was appointed to the commission’s head spot earlier this year by President Donald Trump—has outlined his long-promised plan to overturn the rules regarding internet data usage that were put in place under the Obama administration in 2015.
In case you’ve forgotten what net neutrality was—having prematurely filed it away in the tiny “solved” drawer where you keep the world’s problems that have actually been satisfactorily resolved—it’s basically the idea that internet providers have to treat all data the same, regardless of who’s creating it. (The usual nightmare scenario being a company like Comcast throttling back Netflix’s network speeds to squeeze out extra fees, or to promote its own streaming video content.) President Barack Obama made a big push to get the policy on the books back in 2015, arguing that high-speed internet was a public utility on the same level as phone service, and leading the FCC to lay down regulations forcing ISPs to keep the playing field level.
In case that old conservative boogeyman, “regulations,” didn’t tip you off, though, the net neutrality rules have really stuck in the craw of certain right-wing lawmakers and officials—notably Pai, who’s served on the commission since 2012, and vocally opposed the new guidelines when they were initially passed. Now, he’s pledging to undo them, swapping in voluntary, self-governed “We’ll keep an eye on us” promises from companies instead. (The whole thing is pretty similar to the last time Pai and the FCC made headlines, when he supported Congress’ efforts to overturn rules about who ISPs could sell consumers’ data to.)
To be fair, Pai has said that he’ll seek public comment on the best ways to keep the “the basic principles of net neutrality” intact, even though that seems like it would just be a lot of people going “Hey, some laws or regulations would probably work.”