The conversation shows that the FCC chairman is inching closer to making his plans public, possibly as soon as this month. The plans appear aimed at preserving the basic principles of net neutrality but shifting enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission, while undoing what Republican critics regard as the regulatory overreach of the FCC’s rules.
FCC officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The FCC created the rules during the Obama administration, requiring internet service providers to treat all internet traffic the same. The regulations have been criticized by telecommunications companies, as well as Mr. Pai and other Republicans, who say the rules are heavy-handed and could discourage investment in broadband.
Broadband providers have challenged the FCC rules in court, so far unsuccessfully. A federal appeals court panel upheld the rules last year, but further appeals continue.
It remains unclear when the FCC could move forward with the planned rollback, which is sure to spark an outcry from consumer groups and some congressional Democrats. They—along with some internet firms—view strong net neutrality rules as crucial to maintaining competition on the internet. They are skeptical of any effort to roll back the rules.
Mr. Pai’s plans could begin to be adopted as soon as the FCC’s monthly meeting in May, although the June meeting remains possibility, according to one person familiar with the matter. The FCC currently comprises Mr. Pai, Republican Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn. Two seats on the five-person panel are vacant, waiting for President Donald Trump to nominate new commissioners.
The multistep plan that is emerging appears aimed at eventually shifting oversight for net neutrality to the FTC, which has long overseen most internet-related business, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Under federal law, the FTC lost much of its oversight of broadband providers when the FCC adopted its net neutrality policy, because the FCC rules reclassified broadband providers as common carriers subject to the agency’s oversight.
Mr. Pai’s plans likely would reverse that reclassification eventually, so the FTC again would have jurisdiction over the telecommunications carriers. To preserve the basic tenets of net neutrality, the plans would require broadband providers to pledge to abide by net neutrality principles such as no blocking or paid prioritization of internet traffic. That would allow the FTC to go after violators for deceptive or unfair trade practices.
Some details of the meeting were first reported by Politico Pro.
Mr. Pai also is believed to be considering provisions to restore FTC oversight of broadband providers’ consumer privacy protections. GOP lawmakers, with the backing of Mr. Pai, recently passed a measure repealing an Obama-era FCC privacy rule that broadband providers criticized as unfairly restrictive.