Ajit Pai and the FCC Will Dismantle Net Neutrality, Damage Internet, Speech and Commerce

2 minute read
| The Back Page

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is hellbent on destroying the Internet as we know it, and he’s doing it based on a lie. In a feat of willful ignorance or outright deceit, Mr. Pai believes that free market competition can keep the Internet open when there is no competition.

Net Neutrality graffiti on a brick wall

Net Neutrality, the writing’s on the wall

Just get a load of this bull%#$@ statement from Chairman Pai, reported by The New York Times:

From the piece:

Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the F.C.C. would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.

The proposal is expected to be approved on December 14th in a party-line vote. Ajit Pai has been gunning for Net Neutrality for years.

Mr. Pai knows most markets in the U.S. have no competition for broadband. Many cities specifically award broadband providers monopolies in exchange for developing the infrastructure. The FCC’s own data shows that through the end of 2015, less than half of households had access to more than one provider at speeds of 25Mbps (with 3Mbps upload). Bump that up to 100Mbps downloads (with 10 Mbps uploads), and fewer than 10 percent had access to multiple providers.

Yet Mr. Pai has systematically dismantled consumer protections on the premise that informed consumers can choose a plan right for them.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Filthy Liars

It’s a lie. It’s a bald faced lie. The only thing in doubt is whether Ajit Pai knows he’s a filthy liar or somehow lying in blissful ignorance.

The reality is Ajit Pai’s policies will create redlined slums on the internet, damage speech, and help foster predatory commercial practices hurting consumers. The internet as we know it depends on equal access to bandwidth to all comers. Allowing companies like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and other telecom giants to block sites, services, or simply charge more to access them screws consumers and will make it difficult for new players to enter a variety of markets.

It’s also a threat to free speech, access to information, competition, and eventually, democracy itself.

Lies Work Less Well in Court

Mr. Pai has made it clear he cares not one whit for facts or reality, and that he will destroy Net Neutrality. So while lobbying from companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and others won’t stop this FCC, they will be sued nine ways to Sunday. These companies have more money than the telecom giants pushing the FCC to screw us all. And they’re likely to go to court over this.

While all that’s happening, if you care about Net Neutrality, make that one of the things you vote on. Call your members of Congress (Senate, House of Representatives), and in the next election, find out what your candidate’s stance is on the subject and vote accordingly.

12 Comments Add a comment

  1. Scott Goldman

    Allow me to play the Devil’s Advocate here in order to get a true exchange of ideas rather than a rant. Further, I’ll specify that I do not work for a telecom company and in fact own and run a business that must buy services from various telecoms, making me far more critical (and knowledgable) than most about how they price their services.

    For openers much of this opinion piece – particularly the nastiest parts – is based on sheer speculation. There is no proof whatsoever, in any form, anywhere, that the reversal of “net neutrality” laws will “destroy the Internet” or that Mr. Pai is a “filthy liar.” Furthermore, as a regular reader of MacObserver and listener to MacGeekGab I am offended by the nastiness and unprofessional verbiage used in attacking anyone, government official or otherwise. There’s no reason to be uncivil about your opinions and it just damages reasonable discourse.

    As the Devil’s Advocate I’d ask the following questions:

    What problem is the Net Neutrality law attempting to fix? Have you or anyone else experienced a slowdown or inaccessible sites? I suspect not – I have used a variety of ISPs, including home-based broadband, wireless and corporate and have never once, ever, experienced a particular site or content being slowed down by the ISP.
    Prior to Net Neutrality being promoted as a necessity was there some issue preventing the growth of the Internet, or startups, or consumer access to sites? It all seemed to be working rather healthfully to me – growth rates have been astronomical and billionaires made in businesses that use the Internet as their sole source of revenue (can you say SnapChat, Amazon or Facebook?). What is it about the Internet that isn’t working properly? (I agree that this is close to #1 but there is a subtle difference with a distinction.)
    Doesn’t the fundamental root of this problem lay in the regulation that the government originally imposed by limiting the number of broadband providers in a particular area? After all, if there were multiple choices for ISPs in your area and one of them was slowing down the delivery of your favorite site you could move to another one. But regulation, creating monopolies in geographic areas, is actually the root of this issue by minimizing your choice. Is the best approach here to create yet more regulation to handle the ills of the original regulation? Wouldn’t a market of open competition with multiple ISPs be a better approach? Perhaps those that are so passionately advocating for NN should consider advocating that instead.
    Net Neutrality promotes the idea that everyone should pay the same rate for their content. Do you pay the same for your electricity as the house that uses 10X the power you do? Do you pay the same rate for the USPS to deliver a box in a week that you do if you want FedEx to deliver it overnight? Of course not. You pay based on usage, value and options. Why should the same not apply to Internet service? If I stream HD movies 24/7 should the guy next door who just uses his broadband connection to check email pay the same thing? Aren’t there toll road that allow people willing to pay to go faster options to sitting on a crowded public freeway? Should those be outlawed, too? I submit that people should pay a lower rate for slower speed or less usage and that I should pay for my excessive usage or desire for higher speeds.
    If the big, bad, corporate-monster telecom companies can’t get paid enough to amortize the cost of their investment in infrastructure what happens as the use of your Internet service continues to grow? Do you then complain about how your ISP isn’t keeping up with your demands and then accuse them of intentionally slowing down your connection? It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that way. Businesses, huge like AT&T or tiny like mine, need to recoup investment in order to have the incentive to continue investing. How do they do that if they cannot charge proportionately for those companies that use more resources?

    Finally, consider this: Where did the idea for this law come from? Was it generated by an issue that was front-and-center in everyone’s mind? Was there an example to point to that indicated an onerous and horrific outcome if the structure of the Internet wasn’t changed? Or was it in and of itself politically generated?

    Remember that companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and others have built multi-billion dollar businesses on the backs of the Internet infrastructure that others like the much-hated corporate telecoms have invested in and built. Somebody has to pay for that investment so how should that work?

    I welcome replies, comments and even flames. But please respond with facts, not rants, that show this Devil’s Advocate why the loss of so-called Net Neutrality would be so damaging. And more importantly, let’s keep it civil. Rants may be good for your ego but they aren’t helpful to a debate (or to your blood pressure).

    • geoduck

      The point is that Net Neutrality is the way it always has been since the internet was set up in the late ’80s. The idea that all traffic gets the same service was one of the cornerstones of the World Wide Web. It was not codified until it was under threat and the FCC during the Obama Administration attempted to establish a precedent of ISPs being common carriers. But from day one that was the standard.

      You ask if I have ever seen a slowdown and the answer is no. No because Net Neutrality was understood. Without it you WILL find ISPs choking services like Netflix in favour if their own offerings. Some have already tried to do so. You will find some sites nearly inaccessible. You will find your company’s site choked off to the point of inaccessibility unless you pay extortionary fees to the ISPs. You will stop seeing sites that speak out on particular political subjects if the corporation doesn’t like their content. On the other hand you will have very easy access to those willing and able to pay, and that align politically with the ISPs position. Fox News will pay, DemocracyNow! will not be able to.

      I would not be surprised if access to iCloud starts to be degraded on parts of the network partially owned by companies Apple competes with.

      No this article is not hyperbole. It is not unprofessional. It is a very stark and clear statement of what the US will lose. The cost to the economy of the spike in rates will be very harmful. The cost to Democracy to this choking off of dissent will be even bigger. Trump has already shown himself to admire dictators like Putin, Xi, and Dutarte. This is part of his vision of pushing the US in that direction.

      However I do not believe that our writing and calling the FCC will do any good. They are Libertarian zealots. True Believers in the invisible hand of the marketplace to always do good. I’ve been around enough to have learned that the invisible hand is a lie. I’m old enough to have seen a fair number of industries that were left to regulate themselves, and without exception it was always a disaster. This will be no different.

      • Scott Goldman

        Thank you for your reply and for keeping it civilized. My responses are below:

        The point is that Net Neutrality is the way it always has been since the internet was set up in the late ’80s. The idea that all traffic gets the same service was one of the cornerstones of the World Wide Web. It was not codified until it was under threat and the FCC during the Obama Administration attempted to establish a precedent of ISPs being common carriers. But from day one that was the standard.

        Yes, it has always been this way and it has been eminently successful this way. The “open Internet” has been the de facto standard since day one indeed. And look at the growth, benefits, wealth creation, people helped, lives improved, etc. The Obama administration could have just as easily left things alone but chose not to. The history of their administration illustrates a highly activist regulatory environment and this is a clear example of that.

        You ask if I have ever seen a slowdown and the answer is no. No because Net Neutrality was understood. Without it you WILL find ISPs choking services like Netflix in favour if their own offerings. Some have already tried to do so. You will find some sites nearly inaccessible. You will find your company’s site choked off to the point of inaccessibility unless you pay extortionary fees to the ISPs. You will stop seeing sites that speak out on particular political subjects if the corporation doesn’t like their content. On the other hand you will have very easy access to those willing and able to pay, and that align politically with the ISPs position. Fox News will pay, DemocracyNow! will not be able to.

        Repeating “you WILL” multiple times does not make it a fact. There is zero precedence showing that this was, is or WILL be the case so every “WILL” you state here is 100% speculation. Nobody can predict the future and no amount of emphasis makes it more accurate.

        I would not be surprised if access to iCloud starts to be degraded on parts of the network partially owned by companies Apple competes with.

        I, on the other hand, would be very surprised. Degradation of service or elimination of content does not serve the best interests or the pure profit interests of companies like Apple or ISPs. There is simply too much competition. If iCloud won’t provide something someone else – OneDrive, Google Drive, etc. – surely will. That is the way that competition has been working forever and it has been the most successful approach. Don’t like cable? Try Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video or an HDTV antenna. Your cable company doesn’t provide your favorite sports team? Get Dish, DirecTV or Sling. Competition keeps the playing field level. Government intervention tips the scales in favor of who it thinks should be the winners.

        The government, by the way, is historically lousy at picking winners. Remember Solyndra? $500M down the drain. GM? $25B in bonds evaporated when the government took over the bankruptcy instead of letting it run its course. The list is endless for renewable energy and other government favorites. They are bureaucrats, not business people, and the results are painfully reflective of that.

        No this article is not hyperbole. It is not unprofessional. It is a very stark and clear statement of what the US will lose. The cost to the economy of the spike in rates will be very harmful. The cost to Democracy to this choking off of dissent will be even bigger. Trump has already shown himself to admire dictators like Putin, Xi, and Dutarte. This is part of his vision of pushing the US in that direction.

        You are entitled to your opinion about the level of professionalism. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts. Having written two books and hundreds of magazine articles I have worked with editors, publishers and many other authors and reporters. They consider this type of language and name-calling unprofessional. Besides, it’s just downright rude to do that when someone cannot defend themselves.

        However I do not believe that our writing and calling the FCC will do any good. They are Libertarian zealots. True Believers in the invisible hand of the marketplace to always do good. I’ve been around enough to have learned that the invisible hand is a lie. I’m old enough to have seen a fair number of industries that were left to regulate themselves, and without exception it was always a disaster. This will be no different.

        I disagree. I think that protest is the core of democracy and should be exercised even if the likelihood of an outcome which you favor is low. And calling the FCC “libertarian zealots” doesn’t help. What’s wrong with Libertarians anyhow? The dictionary definition of that label is people who believe in individual liberties. If you’d prefer to have the government run your life, which is apparently your position, you are welcome to that opinion and I encourage you to express it. But calling them “zealots” would be like me calling the FCC under the Obama administration “regulatory fanatics.” Despite what I think of them, slapping a label on them doesn’t make them so.

        Call me a “True Believer.” I believe in open markets, free competition, profit, capitalism and the right to run my own life. If you prefer to have regulatory oversight of everything in your environment I encourage you to vote for whomever you prefer and protest actions that you don’t like. So far, however, the method that I prefer seems to have created a vibrant, thriving, open, helpful, profitable and growing Internet. The Net Neutrality rules you prefer put the government’s hand into what is the most successful invention in history.

        In my humble opinion Net Neutrality is a solution looking for a problem. There’s nothing broken – only speculation that it will be – so “fixing” it seems inappropriate and unjust. Worse, the fix could be worse than the perceived problem (which still has no basis in fact).

        Back to you, sir.

  2. CudaBoy

    Mr Goldman is absolutely wrong and misinformed. Look at the history or deregulation and tell me when it ever worked…not in Banking, not in Finance. All Obama did was to make sure NOTHING CHANGES. There is no grey area here and your pseudo politeness is masking your obvious bias towards big business. Your analogy to electricity bills fails for a number of reasons not the least of which is end users DO have the ability to buy different upload and download speeds now – and that is NOT the issue, do you understand that? The issue is whether ISPs can control accessibility to websites in a non equal fashion from THEIR end regardless of the speed purchased by the end user. No grey area here, either you are in bed with the greedy Utilities and Big Business or you’re not. This idea of smaller less involved Govt is just a dog whistle that recucklicans use pathetically; again we need MORE regulation to keep scumbags like Ajit in check.

    • Scott Goldman

      In response to your comments:

      Mr Goldman is absolutely wrong and misinformed. Look at the history or deregulation and tell me when it ever worked…not in Banking, not in Finance.

      Wow. Talk about wrong and misinformed. Deregulation didn’t work? When was the last time you looked at your phone bill? Before deregulation AT&T was charging $0.45/minute for cell phone calls and $1+/minute for overseas calls. After regulation, long distance charges are practically zero and international charges largely non-existent thanks to Skype, WhatsApp and other apps that were created in the deregulated environment.

      Or how about the airlines? Prior to deregulation in the 1980s you couldn’t find a coast-to-coast flight for <$1000 and now, thanks to deregulation you can find cheap fares on a variety of airlines.

      Or utilities. Prior to deregulation you had no choice, much like the old telephone monopoly days. Ask the folks living in Texas what happened following deregulation of their power market. Prices have dropped like a rock thanks to the competitive market.

      So it is you, not me, that is woefully misinformed.

      All Obama did was to make sure NOTHING CHANGES.

      Ah yes, all hail the Obama administration. You are exactly right. They imposed regulation to fix something that was working just fine. As long as you are okay with having the government freeze movement, progress and innovation by making sure that “nothing changes” then that is the world you can choose to live in. I choose otherwise.

      There is no grey area here and your pseudo politeness is masking your obvious bias towards big business.

      I’m always amused at people who think that politeness and civil discourse can’t be real. (Is your reference to me as “Mr. Goldman” similarly pseudo politeness?) It is indicative of your own unwillingness (or inability) to be equally polite. I have found that people who cannot make a cogent, logical argument resort to insults or insinuations as you have here. I also am always suspect of posts by people who are compelled to hide behind pseudonyms like “CudaBoy” and avatar icons instead of a real photo. If you want to insult someone I suggest you have the courtesy and cajones to do it without hiding behind a phony name and image.

      Do you remember when the Internet was free to access and use? I do. And then the birth of Alta Vista and newborn ‘websites’…..all FREE. Just WHO ordains that capitalism MUST be involved with EVERYTHING??

      Ah, yes – free. Free free free free. That’s what everything should be, right? Nobody should pay for the labor of others and nobody should make a profit – is that the point? It’s an interesting perspective but, sadly, it failed epically and historically in the times or Stalin, Mao and Marx. Who pays for the development, distribution, hosting and maintenance of these “free” sites? Well, you do because if they’re not selling a product you are the product. Google, Gmail, Facebook – all the wonderful “free” services collect your data and sell your life to the highest bidder. I’d prefer to pay for the services I want and not have someone sell my personal life’s preferences to others for them to advertise products to me.

      And in regards to my “obvious bias towards big business” it is clear that you know nothing about me. You have no idea that I have spent my life building small businesses, hiring hundreds of people, paying my taxes and trying to be a good citizen in whatever political environment happens to exist. I believe in protest but also believe in profit. Since when did making money and paying taxes become such a bad thing?

      At this point I’ll respond no further. Unfortunately it is clear that your remarks are becoming personal and bordering on the obscene. (I’m always perplexed at why people feel the need to toss obscenities into their comments. Is it because your vocabulary is limited? Because you can’t make a logical argument and figure that shouting loudly IN CAPITAL LETTERS will make your points more emphatic? Is it because you’re anonymous when online and figure you can just get away with being crass? I’m not being sarcastic here… I really do wonder what the root of the problem is when people have to use insults and terms you wouldn’t use in polite company.)

      So with that I’ll sign off here and hope that I’ve prompted some real thought amongst those people who read these articles and comments. And, by the way, while I enjoy a healthy debate I never stated which side I preferred personally – I only tried to state the facts to make a case for one side. On another occasion I might take the other side. The idea is to exercise thought and debate without getting down in the dirt. Unfortunately it looks like that’s where this discussion is headed.

      And with no “pseudo” friendliness at all, despite any differences I might have with you or anyone else reading these comments, I sincerely wish everyone a happy holiday. Take a moment to stop and think about what you are truly thankful for. It adds perspective.

      • CudaBoy

        Happy Holidays to you and yours, too, bud – a little kindness never hurt.
        <<Prior to deregulation in the 1980s you couldn’t find a coast-to-coast flight for >
        Well, once you are proven to be liberal with facts you lose in court literally and in the public court. I never spent more than $250-$350 flying from Hollywood to East Coast year after back in the 70’s so I can’t take your “facts” seriously. Regulations are just rules – without rules you may get anarchy. Obama didn’t CHANGE anything, he merely made the status quo a rule in fairness to the customers of ISPs who basically are big corporations that can play favorites with other big corporations like Amazon or Google or Apple or Verizon or A,T & T. And btw again I never paid more than $15 in my entire life for phone and nowadays pay NOTHING, you know that “FREE” I was talking about? Well, trust me you don’t HAVE to be a victim of corporations. It’s a simple point and this time there really is a clear line in the sand over who favors corporations or the Govt. That scumbag Ajit the messenger boy that worked (and is a shill) for Verizon has been against the Neutrality for years – or did you not know that? So it boils down to WHO do you want to make the rules, Verizon and Big Corporations or the Government? You come down on Big Corps side and that is why I shout you down at every town meeting – and not behind any avatar. Your the guy that wants to penalize people that want to get off the grid like in Texas and elsewhere that approve local utilities gouging people that use solar – talk about raping the benefits of others; your the guy that bans direct sales of Tesla in states like Texas (well you mentioned the big Oil idiots so we’ll stay there) because somehow that screws GM that makes most of their cars outside the US anyway. You’re right I don’t know you or what you did heck you’re probably an okay guy but I busted your veracity AND showed you hypocritically favor regulation ONLY if it favors filthy big oil or big corps.

      • CudaBoy

        <>
        was that an insult? See? Hypocrite. Anyway, take it up with Mac Ob – you must be new here because for years I’ve had a real photo avatar but Mac Ob changed a year or so ago to Gravatar or some 3rd party co. for avatar manipulation and that’s where I draw the line. – it was a sign-up and intrusion for something that was un necessary.
        OTOH, you are nuts to think you have any more cred on the net because you posted a stock photo from Google images and claim it’s you? Really? You get my point, right?
        Cudaboy is simple – I was lucky enough to buy a new ‘Cuda when I was a kid – a very rare feat for anyone into Mopar E-Bodies. I DO hate that generic avatar though, but you need not look far to find me – I’m all over the web spreading the word. Cheers. 🎤drop

  3. CudaBoy

    Do you remember when the Internet was free to access and use? I do. And then the birth of Alta Vista and newborn ‘websites’…..all FREE. Just WHO ordains that capitalism MUST be involved with EVERYTHING?? It is sickening that the ignorant A,T&Ts and Big Cable Time -Warner Comcasts of the world that were NOWHERE to be found until broadband was mature to now come in and declare the Net is a Utility and everything now is a for-profit model. Bullshit. And now they want to even further skew the tables in favor of the Big Media that didn’t give a hoot when they were selling their copper phone and cable TV services. Again, bullshit. It stops NOW.

    • CudaBoy

      I would like to apologize for my misspelling in above rant – your/you’re…. okay guy/lawyer KIDDING!!!!! Auto spell does crazy things now… 🎸

  4. Kenneth Corum

    It’s noteworthy that FCC chairman Ajit Pai is an Obama appointee who worked with then President Obama to regulate the internet for the first time. Now, the same person is modifying or deregulating it. I can’t remember carriers ever being customer driven. AT&T, Charter,, etc. are in it for themselves. It could get really ugly, but the overall philosophy has been there for many years.

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