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FCC Chairman Pai Challenges Hollywood, Tech Over Net Neutrality

29 Nov, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel


FCC chairman Ajit Pai


Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai pulled no punches in a Nov. 28 speech defending his efforts to roll back net neutrality provisions governing the Internet.

Pai, who was appointed head of the FCC by President Trump, is seeking to overturn a 2015 FCC mandate (pushed by President Obama) regulating the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC is expected to overturn the measure in a vote Dec. 14.

In the speech hosted by R Street Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., Pai reiterated his goal of restoring the Internet to pre-regulatory days — a time he said harbored light regulation (under Title I of the Communications Act). 

Citing President Clinton and Republican-controlled Congress’ passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Pai said the government at the time sought to “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet … unfettered by federal or state regulation.”

Pai contends the Internet has grown into a global information and e-commerce superhighway because of minimal regulation.

“[Clinton and the GOP] deliberately rejected thinking of the Internet as Ma Bell, or a water company, or a subway system,” he said.

Net neutrality advocates, which include myriad technology companies such as Netflix, Hollywood activists and civil liberty groups, say giving Internet Service Providers unfettered control over pricing and bandwidth speed would hurt consumers and smaller over-the-top video services, among other concerns.

Pai, however, says critics are misguided.

“We aren’t giving anybody a free pass. We are simply shifting from one-size-fits-all pre-emptive regulation to targeted enforcement based on actual market failure or anticompetitive conduct,” he said.

The chairman called out Hollywood activists, including Cher, Mark Ruffalo, George Takei and Alyssa Milano, as well as Twitter for unsubstantiated claims and hysteria that repealing net neutrality would end democracy, freedom of speech and kill the Internet, among other accusations.

“We’ve faced a lot of issues threatening our democracy in the last year. But, honestly, the FCC and @AjitPaiFCC’s dismantling of #NetNeutrality is one the biggest,” Milano tweeted recently, according to Pai.

“I’m threatening our democracy? Really? I’d like to see the evidence that America’s democratic institutions were threatened by a Title I framework, as opposed to a Title II framework, during the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, and the first six years of the Obama Administration. Don’t hold your breath — there is none,” he responded.

The chairman characterized Twitter — a mainstay for Trump’s social media activity — as “part of the problem” when it comes to an unfettered Internet.

He claimed Twitter is selective in its politics, blocking users from tweeting content it finds objectionable.

“Despite all the talk about the fear that broadband providers could decide what Internet content consumers can see, recent experience shows that so-called edge providers are in fact deciding what content [consumers] see. These providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like,” Pai said.


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