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Net Neutrality Killer Ajit Pai Casts an Eye over Regulating Blockchain


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The man who killed net neutrality in the US is racing-up with innovations like blockchain to effectively regulate them.

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said that his office would be looking into the emerging technologies for their potential impact on the telecom sector. Naming artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum computing alongside blockchain, the 45-year old telecom regulator added that their regulatory frameworks would evolve according to the growth of the firms in these “dynamic industries.”

“We don’t have jurisdiction over these firms, but that’s one of the things we are trying to learn about,” he explained. “What are the emerging technologies that will have an effect on this space and how should our thinking about regulation evolve.”

Known for his role in repealing the net neutrality law enforced by Barack Obama’s government, Pai in internet pop culture became the nemesis of internet freedom. Not only his decision gave unruly powers to local internet providers, but it also threatened the citizens’ freedom of speech on the internet. Technologists also cornered Pai for his lack of understanding of the Bitcoin technology, after he wrongly named the digital currency for causing network delays on the internet.

The law against Net Neutrality, in a real sense, has been considered as a threat to the cryptocurrency industry. The companies in the space could be forced to withstand corporate censorships, invoked by private deals with the ISPs. Pai’s comments on blockchain come at a time when regulators are going two-face on the technology’s prospects under a governed system.

How Telecom Would Interact with Blockchain

Pai’s role as the FCC chairman limits his jurisdiction to the telecom sector, mainly including interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, cable – and now by the internet too. Considering blockchain’s dependence on the internet, it is likely that Pai and the public ledger technology would come face to face down the road.

It is essential to understand that the US ISPs have a monopoly in the market. Over 51 percent of the Americans have one ISP to pick from, while the remaining 49 percent access the internet under the threat of throttling. The whole process is deeply anti-decentralized, which could hamper the growth of crypto sector as a whole.

A financial giant in partnership with one of the ruling ISPs, for instance, could easily deprioritize a local fintech startup by limiting access to its services. These services could be anything from crypto-based remittance to blockchain-enabled recordkeeping solution.

Justin Tabb, the CEO of Substratum Network, a decentralized internet startup, predicted these challenges for crypto companies.

“ISPs could potentially have the power to control access to exchanges, the speed of transactions, and even create and prioritize accessibility to their cryptocurrencies, which is not such a crazy idea when you think of all the places in this country where a single ISP has a monopoly,” he told the International Business Times.

Decentralization of ISPs

Though, the challenges of Pai and the rest of the FCC could be more about blockchain’s potential to destabilize internet. The ledger, regardless of being in an infant stage, promises to decentralized anything that preaches monopoly – even ISPs. Theoretically, decentralization on the internet could be achieved by creating a mesh network where users can directly connect with each other.

While a blockchain revolution for net neutrality still seems like a far-fetched sci-fi fantasy, the supporters could practice what’s available to them, i.e., democracy. Net neutrality is a wakeup call, and it is the job of the people to keep asking for laws that favor the growth of technologies like blockchain.

Featured image from Flickr/Gage Skidmore.

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