Above photo: Protest for net neutrality outside Ajit Pai’s home, 2017. Anne Meador.
Still Hurting People Without Internet Access.
Washington – In a blog post on Monday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wrote that he stands by the agency’s unpopular repeal of Net Neutrality rules. Pai also circulated a proposal to address three issues raised in 2019 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit when it remanded critical parts of that repeal and sent it back to the agency.
At that time, the court commanded the FCC to examine the impacts of removing Title II as a source of authority for broadband’s inclusion in the Lifeline subsidy program. The court also ordered the agency to analyze and account for its decision’s impacts on public safety and broadband-infrastructure policy.
On Monday, Pai suggested that his repeal of the Title II protections has created a better and more resilient internet for everyone. In so doing, he ignored reams of data showing recent declines in capital expenditures by major broadband companies and disregarded the tens of millions of people in the United States who are unable to afford the types of connection needed to face the many social, economic, health and educational challenges of the COVID-19 emergency.
Free Press Policy Manager Dana Floberg made the following statement:
“No amount of lying by Chairman Pai will change this reality: The Trump FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality protections and agency authority were wrong in 2017 and they’re still wrong today. Pai’s tired arguments rest on unproven claims that the FCC repeal has somehow spurred a golden age of broadband investment and fiber deployment. But these investment claims are built on falsehoods and disinformation, with zero evidence in actual investment figures.
“The reality is, broadband investment has declined during Pai’s tenure. The deployment gains he routinely takes credit for were overwhelmingly planned, announced and begun during the latter part of the Obama administration, when Title II was the law of the land. And Pai’s boasts of a 99-percent increase in broadband speeds pales in comparison to the 210-percent increase seen during Obama’s second term.
“The FCC’s decision to forfeit its authority over broadband-internet service has undermined its ability to protect the Lifeline program, pole-attachment rights for competitive broadband providers and public safety — a glaring abandonment during a pandemic that has students, workers and patients more reliant on the internet than ever. In fact, the best Pai offered people who are struggling to connect during this crisis was a toothless, voluntary pledge asking internet providers not to disconnect customers or impose unreasonable overage fees.
“Pai’s claim that the internet is ‘better, stronger, and freer than ever’ is not true for millions of low-income families who are worried about paying their bills, for school districts that are forced to front hundreds of thousands of dollars to connect students, for communities of color who remain disproportionately disconnected. Nearly 80 million people in America lack an adequate broadband connection at home today — yet Chairman Pai has the gall to brag about his supposed accomplishments.
“We’ll say it again and again: The best remedy for such harms would be for the Commission to once again correctly classify broadband as a Title II service, protected by strong open-internet rules, and to take steps to ensure that broadband is truly available and affordable for everyone.”