FCC Chairman Pai helped Charter kill consumer-protection rules in Minnesota

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A court ruling that limits state regulation of cable company offerings was praised by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who says the ruling supports his contention that the FCC can preempt state-level network neutrality rules. The new court ruling found that Minnesota's state government cannot regulate VoIP phone services offered by Charter and other cable companies because VoIP is an "information service" under federal law. Chairman Pai argues that the case is consistent with the FCC's attempt to preempt state-level net neutrality rules, in which the commission reclassified broadband as a Title I information service instead of a Title II telecommunications service.

The ruling won't necessarily have an impact on the net neutrality case, in which Chairman Pai is defending the repeal and preemption of state laws against dozens of litigants including more than 20 state attorneys general. The net neutrality case is being handled by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, so it will be decided by different judges. The details are also different in the net neutrality case, said attorney Andrew Schwartzman, who represents the Benton Foundation in the case against the FCC. In the net neutrality case, "the Pai FCC definitively said that it has no jurisdiction under either Title I or Title II [of the Communications Act] to regulate broadband Internet access service," Schwartzman said. "As the governmental parties explained at pp. 39-56 their brief, when an agency lacks authority to regulate, it also lacks authority to preempt." The VoIP case also differs from the net neutrality case in that there was "no FCC decision at issue" because "the FCC has repeatedly refused to decide what regulatory classification... should be applied to VoIP," Schwartzman said. "Thus, it was left to the court to consider the question in a case between the state and Charter."

Ajit Pai helped Charter kill consumer-protection rules in Minnesota