Net Activists Hammer Pai

Call Commissioner's Title II Stance 'Fear Mongering'

Net-neutrality activists were quick to react to Ajit Pai's press conference Tuesday (Feb. 10), where the Federal Communications Commission commissioner criticized agency chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed Title II-based network-neutrality rule order and attributed its impetus to White House influence and politics.

Some of those groups didn't even wait for the press conference to respond to it, anticipating the arguments and criticisms from earlier Pai statements; Pai has made no secret of his dislike of the rules and the process that has produced them.

The groups made no secret of their dislike either, calling Pai's criticisms "nonsense" and "fear mongering" (Free Press) and Pai's repeated attribution of the plan to President Obama -- who came out forcefully for Title II specifically, not simply strong net-neutrality rules in general - -as "the worst sort of dismissive and elitist insult to the American people" (Public Knowledge).

"Commissioner Pai has grown fond of saying at the FCC, ‘this is not what democracy looks like,'" said Public Knowledge SVP Harold Feld. "Perhaps it is Commissioner Pai who can no longer recognize democracy," Feld added that Wheeler should be saluted as a hero and "the people's champion."

As to the suggestion that the president's push for the FCC to impose Title II was undue pressure on an independent agency, a point Pai also made in his press conference, Feld said: "It did not violate the FCC’s independence when President George W. Bush publicly called for chairman Michael Powell to vote on deregulating media ownership, or when President Bill Clinton wrote a public letter to chairman Reed Hundt to ban hard liquor advertising on television. It also did not violate the FCC’s independence when President Ronald Reagan asked chairman Mark Fowler to drop his proposal to rescind the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules. Similarly, President Obama has not violated the independence of the FCC by making his support for strong net-neutrality rules under Title II public."

Free Press policy director Matt Wood said: "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."

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