December 7, 2016 / 7:01 PM / in 8 months

Republican FCC commissioners urge quick reversal of Obama rules

WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Two Republican U.S. Federal Communications Commissioners say the Trump administration should reverse many significant policies set by the telecommunications and cable regulatory body under Democratic President Barack Obama.

FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly said at an event at the National Press Club in Washington that the FCC under President Donald Trump needs to "undo the more harmful policies adopted by the current commission. ... The policy direction chosen in these instances was wrongheaded, harmful to consumers and the industry, costly, and ultimately unworthy of continuation."

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said he hoped the commission would eliminate many regulations, propose fewer new actions and seek guidance from Congress before taking many actions. He said the commission should take a "weed whacker" to unneeded rules.

O'Rielly said the FCC should not have sought to micromanage the internet economy in recent years and should reconsider the decision to largely leave intact rules barring cross-ownership of media.

In August, the FCC voted 3-2 to retain nearly all rules limiting cross-ownership of newspapers, radio and TV stations in the same market, a blow to struggling newspaper companies that have long pushed for the agency to relax restrictions.

O'Rielly criticized the FCC's decision in October to impose stricter privacy rules on internet service providers than those imposed on websites like Facebook, Alphabet Inc's Google or Twitter Inc.

"Next year's commission should consider acting quickly to reverse any damaging policies put into place over the last eight years and in the last few weeks of this administration," O'Rielly said, urging the next FCC to halt action on some controversial rulemaking.

The commission is currently controlled by the Democrats, including FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, by a 3-2 margin. But Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel will be forced to leave the FCC if she is not reconfirmed by the end of the month. Trump, a Republican, has not yet named a new chairman.

One controversial decision made by the FCC under Wheeler was the 2015 order to reclassify broadband internet service under a section of communications law that treats them more like public utilities and subjects them to stricter rules as part of the FCC's "net neutrality" rules. Those rules bar broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a "fast lane" on the information superhighway, to certain internet services over others.

Last month, under pressure from Congress, Wheeler dropped plans to push through a proposed reform of the $45 billion business data services market. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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