His Opposition to Net Neutrality Might Put FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Out of a Job

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If United States Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has her way, Ajit Pai might be out of a job soon. The current Federal Communications Commission Chairman has made moves that unsettle just about everyone here at The Mac Observer. That sentiment is shared with everyone in favor of net neutrality. Sen. Cantwell took to the Senate floor today to urge her colleagues to vote against FCC Chairman Pai’s renomination.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a proponent of net neutrality

The Importance of Net Neutrality in the FCC

Mr. Pai has, since he first began his work at the FCC, opposed efforts to level the internet’s playing field. Net neutrality governs how telecommunications and cable companies can charge small businesses for faster internet access. Eliminating the existing rules, which is what Mr. Pai is aiming for, would create a “fast lane” and a “slow lane” for broadband access.

Sen. Cantwell stressed the importance of net neutrality during her remarks to the Senate.

A strong and open internet is key to an economy of the future, to giving the innovation and creative jobs that are going to come along with an open internet architecture. I will continue to fight for my state’s economy that depends so greatly on [net neutrality] and to the millions of consumers around the United States who are trying to grow what are smarter, more intelligent, more cost-effective businesses.

In May, Mr. Pai began dismantling net neutrality, which flies in the face of the FCC’s mandate to act in the public interest. Equal access helps maintain a healthy economic engine for the internet. This economic engine has been highly successful. Not allowing “big names” like Verizon and Comcast to throttle speeds those unwilling or unable to pay for faster access has done wonders.

Senator Cantwell and Net Neutrality

Sen. Cantwell has a long and storied history of advocating for net neutrality. She was instrumental in leading the movement to establish the current rules, which Mr. Pai is trying to abolish.

Earlier this year, Sen. Cantwell and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn took part in a town hall meeting in Seattle. There, they heard directly from constituents who pointed out how crucial a free and open internet is for them. Rolling back net neutrality protection would hurt their jobs and busineses.

Today’s Senate Remarks Stress Again the Importance of Net Neutrality

Sen. Cantwell voiced that she was rising from her Senate seat to “strongly oppose the nomination of Ajit Pai to serve a second term as chairman of the FCC.” The full transcript of her remarks is below, or you can view the video of the Senator’s address to the Senate body.

I rise today to strongly oppose the nomination of Ajit Pai to serve as second term as chairman of the FCC. Since taking over the FCC leadership in January, Chairman Pai has wasted no time in moving the agency away from its key mission to promote the use and deployment of communications in the public interest. For example, he’s been involved in dismantling the rules that preserve the diversity of content in media ownership, potentially negatively impacting forever the number and variety of voices in the media market. In addition, his confirmation to this important position will also have a negative impact on one of the most important issues I believe of our time and that is preserving net neutrality.

A strong and open internet is key to an economy of the future, to giving the innovation and creative jobs that are going to come along with an open architecture.

Chairman Pai is poised to undo what our bedrock principles is already in place to protect an open internet. Even in the face of that evidence, that it is important to an internet economy and millions of jobs, he is determined to try to rewrite them.

On Monday the Senate will vote whether to confirm Ajit Pai for another term as chairman of the FCC. As I have said, I think his leadership has shown that on net neutrality he believes the rules should be changed. As long as he continues to hold that position, I cannot support his nomination.

As the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he has demonstrated a disdain to these important public interest principles that he’s supposed to be upholding, and it shows a disregard for the innovators in America that are striving so much to build the economy of the future. The public interest mission of the FCC is encoded in the agency’s DNA. The law created the FCC and clearly states that the agency’s mission includes promoting equal access to communication networks for all people around the United States. This means the FCC has the responsibility to promote the expansion of communication networks and to ensure they have the incentive and ability to compete fairly with one another in providing broadband services, not letting a big telecom company or cable company run over small businesses or consumers and say to them, unless you pay me more, I’m not going to give you essential services.

Imagine if that would have happened to the telephone industry decades ago. If you couldn’t get access because someone had decided I’m going to let the highest bidder rule the roost. The President’s nomination, and his desire to make him chair, continues to show a desire to undermine the internet and the internet economy. As soon as he was appointed, Chairman Pai announced his intention as chairman to go against the demands of American consumers and reverse the rules that are already on the books to protect consumers.

Chairman Pai wants to make it possible for those big telecom and cable companies to erect toll lanes that would further burden the nature of the internet and the innovation this economy supports. He plans to go against more than 10 million American consumers and innovators who have told him to keep the internet open and free.

So recent studies have shown that the internet economy is now over 7% of U.S. gross domestic product and it employs 7 million people and is worth $1 trillion. Our strong, robust internet rules, without question, have helped keep that economic growth. Our economy is in a massive technological transformation. It’s in an information age. And in an information age, making sure you have an open internet is going to be key to continuing to growing business.

Every business plan of every start-up relies on its ability to access consumers and for those consumers to get equal access to content. And largely as a result of the innovations, this has created hundreds of thousands of tech jobs in the United States. The internet economy almost $1 trillion and 7% of GDP is growing faster and stronger than many other sectors, including construction, mining, utilities, agriculture, education, and entertainment.

So, it is disturbing to me that Chairman Pai has made it clear that he wants to rewrite the rules that protect those businesses and create an artificial fast and slow lane, and if you want out of the slow lane, you better pay me more money. We can’t do that for all the applications and small businesses continuing to work on growing our economy. We need to make sure that instead of shedding jobs in the U.S., as we did in the last economic downturn, that we are creating jobs and power for consumers.

We have seen what has been termed the app economy, which consists of everybody who makes money as a job thanks to a mobile app that was also powered by the internet. Today 1.7 million Americans have jobs because of that economy. Nearly 92,000 of them are in the state of Washington. So over the past five years that app economy and those jobs have grown at an annual rate of 30%. The average growth rate for all other jobs is 1.6%. So literally you are trying to clog the arteries of one of the fastest-growing economic opportunities in America. By 2020 the app economy would grow to over $100 billion. This demonstrates that the internet economy is a dynamic, supercharged, job-creating economy that should not be slowed down because some industries believe that they have the right to do so.

These facts in making sure we protect an open internet is why we should not support Chairman Pai. The slow lanes and the fast lanes are not like a highway where a consumer or business can take another route or plan another course. Here you’re creating barriers that are wedges between businesses and their consumers, between doctors and their patients, between industry solution providers and the customers they are trying to serve.

The growth of the internet platform for economic activity is something that we do not want to see destroyed. And Chairman Pai’s dismantling of that robust, open internet architecture and the support that it gives to innovators, is extremely troubling to me. I think about all the applications that I’ve seen in my state, whether it’s a business like McKinstry which provides efficiencies to school districts all over our state and Puget Sound. Let’s pretend now that McKinstry, who is trying to tell a North Shore school district they’re using too much power or they can reduce their cost by just doing these three things, but now all of a sudden McKinstry has to charge that school district more if they want to get that information to them on time. A clogged artery will not get the information to that school district when it’s needed in time to make an adjustment.

Let’s talk about a doctor in a rural area who receives information about someone who comes into their emergency room but wants a consult with somebody in Seattle, and all of a sudden now their connection and connectivity is slowed down again unless they pay more money.

Or I think about it in just some very traditional ways of people going to get coffee who now in my state pre-order, go online, and show up to get that – all so they can avoid the long lines but now all of a sudden is that also going to be another toll, an extra toll, just to get it to go as fast as consumers want it to go? Or are cable companies or online providers going to say you have to pay more if you want a fast lane?

What Chairman Pai doesn’t realize is that the internet is now a full-blown ecosystem, with all attachments; that the internet is like the artery system that connects it all and connects it in so many ways beyond even our imagination. And yet he is proposing to clog those arteries, to hold us ransom if only we will tell a cable company it’s okay to charge the American consumer more.

We cannot afford to ruin the internet economy by doing this. You need to have an open architecture that allows everybody to access this information at the same time and the same rate so that we can have an open internet architecture.

There are ways to grow the internet and grow internet investment in the delivery system. In fact, during the time period of the open internet rules, we have seen just that, a continued investment. So we do not now have to rewrite these rules. We do not now have to throw a roadblock, a hurdle, a clogging of the arteries at the small business and internet economy that is growing so rapidly with all its devices. God forbid that one of our colleagues would be on the other side of town and get a delayed message about when a vote started just because we in the Senate hadn’t bought a higher, faster speed lane and maybe they would miss a vote. It’s hard to say what slowing down the internet artificially would do because it is so connected to everything we do today. And that is why we have to stop.

I’m happy to hear that Chairman Pai would drop his insistence on trying to change the rules of an open internet. I might think differently about his nomination. But I will continue to fight for my state’s economy that depends so greatly on this and to the millions of consumers around the United States who are trying to grow what are smarter, more intelligent, more cost-effective businesses.

Even the health care debate we just had, I believe in home health care. I believe we can get there and drive down costs. But if you’re telling a doctor and a patient ‘you might not get the information back from your doctor for days because he can’t afford a fast internet connection that the cable companies are charging,’ then I guarantee you we’re not going to reduce our health care costs. So please, I ask my colleagues: you will not have another chance at this. You will not, when you hear from your constituents about this issue, be able to take back this vote. Please make sure you understand that Chairman Pai is marching ahead on a very different picture. And because of that, I’m not going to vote for someone who is going to slow down and clog the internet. And I urge my colleagues to vote no on Chairman Pai and his nomination. I thank the president and I yield the floor.

5 Comments Add a comment

  1. aardman

    I’ve tried to find out what Mr. Pai’s economic theory is to justify dismantling net neutrality and so far what I’ve seen is parroting free-market buzzwords to basically confer even more market power to already powerful corporations. It’s nothing more than the party doing its paymasters’ bidding. No wonder he tries to hurry up and discourage public discussion as much as he can. I really wonder about these people who enter public service with no regard at all for the notion of “the common good”.

  2. Brutno

    “But if you’re telling a doctor and a patient ‘you might not get the information back from your doctor for days because he can’t afford a fast internet connection that the cable companies are charging,’ then I guarantee you we’re not going to reduce our health care costs.”

    Seriously, that’s her argument? No matter where you fall on Net Neutrality, that’s specious. I don’t recall waiting days for a web page to load back in the 56k modem days. Sheesh.

    I was a firm believer in NN until I learned the dark side of Net Neutrality could be government control of internet content – it’s been done before in different broadcast mediums. The “General-Conduct Standard” in NN supersedes virtually every rule in NN, and is subject to interpretation by the FCC, a body made up of FIVE people. Think of it – FIVE people controlling the internet. Additionally, all those jobs created that Sen. Cantwell references came about as a result of an open collaboration of private and public networks, those networks that under NN become a quasi-public utility. So an open market becomes a government-controlled inevitably less-competitive market. Think about all the innovation that the Bell system gave us (not) under government control. I’ll pass on the control aspect, thank you.

    Also, I’ve not read an argument that with NN everyone should pay the same price for the same speed for their home internet connection. Taken to a logical extreme could this happen? I willingly pay less than others do for my internet connection with the understanding that my speed is lower. I’d like to keep that option open.

    No disrespect for anyone who is pro-NN. I’m all for equality, but NN as it stands is far too broad and concentrates too much power in too few people. It needs to be re-written. NN falls under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, which allows, along other items, for the President to essentially take over the internet in a national emergency. So that “free and open” concept goes right out the window at a time when the internet may be the communication method you need to stay safe or communicate with others. Think China and it’s limitations on internet site access or it’s disallowance of VPN use. Not for me.

    As far as “leveling the playing field” – well, the internet has done a pretty good job of that for a lot of people and companies well before NN was a concept. NN, as it stands, could very well stifle the levels of innovation that we experienced in the past.

    Just my thoughts. YMMV.

    • aardman

      The fundamental question is “Is the internet a public good or not”. I say given that access to a lot of government and public services is dependent on having an internet connection then it is a public good. Everything follows from there. One of the basic tenets of good management of a public good is that you don’t turn primary control over it to a self-interested, monopolistic entity or entities because profit-seeking companies will restrict access and raise prices if they can. That’s one of the few findings in economics that you can take to the bank. Conservative and progressive economists both accept it.

      Now this thing about control of content on the internet being left to a body of five people. That’s a big honking canard. We’ve had content over the airwaves controlled by a small group of people for the longest time and I don’t think anyone will accuse the FCC of the wholesale, excessive, and harmful suppression of certain types of content.

      I would much rather have content be vetted by a public body that is accountable to elected officials who are in turn accountable to us, rather than by a bunch of powerful corporations whose primary goal is to make money and who have no formal mechanisms for public accountability.

  3. Brutno

    aardman,
    Here is your big honking canard: “The FCC is directed by five commissioners appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate for five-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term. The U.S. President designates one of the commissioners to serve as chairman. Only three commissioners may be members of the same political party. None of them may have a financial interest in any FCC-related business.”

    Unelected bureaucrats. Certainly not a public body.
    One party can control the board. No possible bias there whatsoever!

    Your statement regarding control of the content of media concerns, in a nutshell, “The Seven Words You Cannot Use on Television”, and broadcast TV nudity. Not content, not political statements. Not cable TV, oddly.

    We’re talking a different animal here, the internet. Unregulated; the great equalizer.
    Free discussion of ideas and opinions. Yes, there are idiots out there, and no one could reasonably argue that there are not bad characters out there that use the internet for disreputable things. However, to argue that there isn’t influence possible with NN is ignorant. Under NN, a provider can present a case to the FCC that a new technology “unreasonably harms” them or another party. The FCC is the final arbiter with no chance of appeal. The smaller ISPs could be driven out of business by those evil corp orate monopolies, as they do not have the finances to compete with the big companies. FYI – I’m no fan of monopolies either. There are paymasters on both sides, sometimes the same ones.

    As I said, NN needs to be re-written narrowly. Don’t let government the determine what business models are acceptable. That will not end well.

  4. Old UNIX Guy

    Ajit Pai, along with Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, and Rick Perry … are the four horsemen of the apocalypse…

    In an administration where every last appointee is someone who not only should not be working in government, but the world would be a better place without them in it … those four stand out as the worst of the worst.

    Old UNIX Guy

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