FCC led by Trump pick starts to reverse Obama policies

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission often took stances that angered the phone and cable industries under the Obama administration. It’s already starting to lean the other way.

The regulator of broadcast TV and internet services says cellphone companies that exempt some services from data caps are good for consumers after all.

That effectively cuts prices for these services, usually ones owned by the phone company. But many consumer advocates say that ultimately hurts consumers by undermining other, independent services.

The FCC, in the waning days of the Obama administration, had criticized AT&T for exempting its DirecTV Now live-TV streaming service from AT&T data caps on cellphones.

The FCC had issued a report in January saying AT&T’s and Verizon’s practices, known as “zero rating,” were likely anti-consumer, but that did not require them to change what they were doing.

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, picked by President Donald Trump, said Friday that “free-data plans” are popular with consumers and improve competition. The agency’s moves on Friday may mean that “zero rating” becomes more common.

Other Obama-era policies are threatened. Pai has long maintained that the FCC under Chairman Thomas Wheeler had overstepped its bounds, suggesting that he would steer the agency in a direction more favorable to big phone and cable companies. In a December speech, he said the FCC needed to take a “weed whacker” to what he considered unnecessary regulations that hold back investment and innovation. Rules in jeopardy include “net neutrality,” which bars internet service providers from favoring some websites and apps over others.

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