After a slight scare when Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai received a note to evacuate in the middle of his closing argument in favor of overturning net neutrality rules implemented by the Obama administration in 2015, the commission voted to end those rules Thursday.
Pai spent the majority of his closing argument reiterating his position on why the Orwellian-named net neutrality rules — which essentially implemented federal oversight of the internet under Title II regulations created in the 1930s to manage the Ma Bell telephone monopoly — had been an Obama administration mistake.
Prior to 2015 when net neutrality was implemented, the internet was regulated under what Pai is fond of calling a “light-touch framework”; simply put, the federal government had less regulatory oversight which allowed internet service providers and tech companies the ability to invest and innovate. That’s why the internet is as robust and efficient as it is.
Pai said the net neutrality rules were “express orders” from the Obama White House to the FCC, and led to less innovation and investment in the internet framework for the last two years, citing several specific examples. The environment that allowed the internet to thrive before the Obama-era rules “wasn’t heavy-handed…regulation,” Pai said, which led to the $1.5 trillion investment in internet services and networks that gave America unfettered access.
He also noted, in contradiction to dissenting Democrat commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn (who delivered a nearly 20 minute “eulogy” to net neutrality), that people who complain about the internet don’t complain about Internet Service Providers (ISPs) potentially blocking or throttling content, or that they might discriminate against Internet traffic of their competitors. Instead they complain that there’s not enough choice regarding ISPs and that they might have no access at.
Pai noted that a lighter touch regulatory environment, where ISPs are free to start up and innovate, would address both of those problem.
In short, Pai said the decision to overturn net neutrality “is not going to destroy the internet…is not going to kill democracy, [and] is not going to stifle free expression online.”
The debate over internet regulation has often be high-strung, with detractors of Pai’s vision using what he called “apocalyptic rhetoric.”
They have also been known to present their positions in ways that are not quite true. Take for example this tweet from NCTA – The Internet and Television Association. It would appear from the tweet that ALL cable ISPs support retaining net neutrality rules. But open the link and it’s clear that several of the companies quoted express a clear preference for Pai’s vision.
— NCTA – The Internet & Television Association (@NCTAitv) November 21, 2017
But the vote is done, and net neutrality is a thing of the past. Or, to use Ms. Clyburn’s words, the federal government’s “universal service construct” is a thing of the past.
Statists really dislike losing power.