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How Congress and the courts complicate net neutrality

Discussions are ongoing at the Federal Communications Commission on how to tackle the controversial 2015 net neutrality rules, new chairman Ajit Pai made clear on Thursday, as he assiduously avoided making news on how the agency might roll the regulations back.

But Pai did indicate what outside considerations are weighing on commission staffers:

  • The courts: Pai said that whether a federal court will rehear a legal challenge to the rules "is one of the factors that is going into our thinking."
  • Congress: He also said he had been "meeting with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to hear their views about this issue."
  • The legal risks: Morning Consult reported in December that it could be difficult for the commission to explain in court why they so quickly changed course, despite a deep record of evidence the previous commission developed in favor of the rules. "I mean that's part of what we're trying to figure out, what the lay of the land is in terms of the legal landscape as well," Pai said when asked about that story. "So I can't say what that is but I'm aware of people who have made those comments, of course."

What's next: We'll be watching for what happens once the federal courts say whether they will rehear the case over the rules, and for whether Congress starts moving in earnest on a compromise on the issue.