Congress orders Ajit Pai: hands off San Francisco's broadband competition law

San Francisco passed a law requiring owners of multi-unit buildings to choose which ISP they use, ending the practice of landlords selling access to tenants to ISPs, locking in the tenants to ISPs who don't have to keep them happy to keep their business.

Enter Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon exec who never met an anticompetitive telcom practice he didn't love. Pai says he'll use the FCC to block the city's rules, on the grounds that telcoms are a federal matter. This is the opposite position that Pai took during the Obama years, when the FCC tried to annul state-level rules banning cities from offering municipal broadband services; back then, he argued that the FCC's authority only extended to interstate lines, and that "states rights" meant that local governments could regulate telcoms in their borders.

But then the Democratic Congress intervened, with Rep. Katie Porter's [D-CA] amendment to the budget bill, which "prohibits the Federal Communications Committee from finalizing a draft declaratory ruling that would overturn local ordinances that promote broadband competition." The amendment passed.

Now it has to clear the Senate and get Trump's signoff.

"The FCC's mission is to promote competition," Porter said in a statement her office provided to Ars. "We should be holding them accountable to fulfilling this mission, which is why I'm seeking to defund their declaratory draft ruling preempting San Francisco's local ordinance, effectively preventing competition."

House votes to block Ajit Pai’s plan to kill San Francisco broadband law [Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica]

(Image: Noahnmf, CC-BY-SA)