Pai Appointment Could Signal Trouble for Open Internet

New FCC Chair Has Been a Vocal Critic of Net Neutrality Protections

Posted by Dale Eisman on January 24, 2017


Media and democracy thumbnail for issue buckets

The White House announced on Monday that Ajit Pai, the senior Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, will be the FCC’s new chair.

Pai has been a vocal opponent of the FCC’s Open Internet or “Net Neutrality” regulations, which block internet providers from creating “fast lanes” for some content and slowing or stopping access to other websites and applications.

Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who now serves as special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, congratulated Pai on the appointment and urged him to “take the Commission outside of Washington, so Commissioners can meet with and hear from the people who live with the policies they make. I am totally convinced the majority of Americans, including many who voted for the new president, strongly favor an open internet and a media ecosystem that is up to the task of informing democracy.”

Here’s an excerpt of NPR’s report on the appointment:

In a statement, Pai said he looked forward "to working with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans."

On Twitter, Pai also added: "There is so much we can do together to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans and to promote innovation and investment. From broadband to broadcast, I believe in a 21st-century version of Jefferson's 2nd Inaugural: we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats."

Pai is a longtime Washington lawyer who has worked in the Senate, at the Justice Department and the FCC and had a stint at Verizon before becoming an FCC commissioner in 2012. As a regulator, he voted reliably against many policy proposals by former Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler, including the contentious and high-profile move to establish so-called net neutrality rules.

Under Wheeler, the FCC moved to impose the no-blocking, no-throttling and no-discrimination rules on Internet service providers in a way that put them under the strictest-ever regulatory regime. (The agency's Democratic majority later moved to leverage new oversight powers to set the first privacy restrictions for the ISPs, which Pai opposed.)

Though the net neutrality rules — after years in limbo — have now been affirmed in court, Pai and his fellow Republican FCC commissioner Mike O'Rielly have indicated plans to revisit those Internet regulations as well as other FCC rules.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Media and Democracy

Tags: Net Neutrality

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