WASHINGTON — In a Tuesday press conference, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai critiqued the agency’s pending Open Internet order, mischaracterizing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan as a scheme to “regulate the Internet.”
Last week, Wheeler announced his intention to reclassify broadband access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act. Using Title II would restore basic protections against blocking and unreasonable discrimination by broadband providers, grounding those protections in the proper part of the law for the first time in more than a decade.
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
“Commissioner Pai’s nonsense will be cheered by the cable and telecom industries, which make the same unfounded claims. And his fear-mongering may resonate in the echo chamber of misinformation about Title II. But Commissioner Pai is wrong on the facts and the law, and he’s out of step with what millions of Internet users and businesses have asked the FCC to do: Protect them from abuse with strong rules that will survive in court.
“Pai’s claim that returning to Title II equals a government takeover of the Internet is ridiculous. One of Title II’s many benefits is that it draws a bright line between our common-carrier communications networks and the speech that flows over them. People like Pai who conflate the two are either confused or dead set on confusing others. Net Neutrality rules don’t regulate what’s on the Internet, just as the FCC’s rules for phone networks don’t regulate what people say on phone calls. We’ve always had these kinds of protections in place for our communications networks, and we still have them today for essential services like wireless voice and business-grade broadband services.”
“It’s embarrassing that Commissioner Pai would once again regurgitate the claims about alleged Internet taxes — claims that have been thoroughly debunked. Senator Wyden, author of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, called these claims baloney. The Washington Post said that they’re saddled with significant factual errors and obvious contradictions. A Free Press filing demolished these unsubstantiated arguments nearly two months ago yet industry mouthpieces keep trotting out the same bogus figures.”
“Claims that Title II harms broadband investment have also been repeatedly debunked — not just by independent advocates like Free Press, but by the CEOs and chief financial officers of Verizon, Comcast, Charter, Time Warner Cable and Sprint in their presentations to investors and, in the case of Sprint, to the FCC itself. No independent investment analyst gives any credence to these supposed harms, and neither does Wall Street.”
One Size Fits All
“The notion that this decision hurts small cable companies is bizarre. Customers need basic safeguards against unreasonable discrimination no matter how big or small their broadband provider may be, and even if those customers have a choice among broadband providers. Once you’re signed up, that cable company controls the only wire in and out of your house. If these smaller providers truly have no incentive and no ability to block or discriminate unreasonably, then what problem do they have complying with rules against blocking and discrimination?”
“Real open Internet protections must be based on Title II, which was updated with overwhelming bipartisan support in the 1996 Telecom Act. This wasn’t a partisan issue then, and it isn’t one today. Support for real Net Neutrality is present across the political spectrum, and more than 80 percent of self-identified conservatives want strong rules. In fact, the reason the court twice overturned the FCC’s previous open Internet protections is because the agency failed to root them in Title II. The threat of endless litigation is a red herring. Some broadband providers may sue the FCC no matter what, but the FCC has the best chance of winning on the rock-solid authority of Title II.
“The scare tactics of Net Neutrality foes defy common sense. Contrary to Commissioner Pai’s fanciful claims, Title II doesn’t bring Internet speech, content, websites or applications under the FCC’s jurisdiction. But nothing will stop Commissioner Pai from insisting that basic nondiscrimination protections amount to regulation of Internet content. This is the lie that big cable and telecom companies pay their lobbyists to say. It’s no more accurate when parroted by a member of the FCC. Strong rules based on Title II would provide the access to information that every Internet user wants, and the access to markets that every business needs.”