CASE Op-Ed: FCC Chairman Pai Thankfully Taking Internet Back to the Future
My memory may not be the greatest, but back in 2015 I certainly don’t recall any statements along the lines of: “Hey, you know what would make the internet even better, is if the federal government regulated it like a public utility.” That’s the kind of thing that sticks in your mind, as you take a step back from the person saying it.
Yet as we all know, that’s exactly what the Obama Administration proposed and ultimately implemented in 2015 when it reclassified internet providers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. And now the left is erupting into utter hysteria that current Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is going to return the internet to the same pre-2015 regulatory framework that allowed it to revolutionize modern civilization and form the cornerstone of our digital economy. What a monster!
Called Restoring Internet Freedom, the FCC is now set to undo Title II when it meets on December 14th, or as one vocal group on the left has dubbed it, “death day.” Predictably, a well-organized mob of progressives are attacking the vote and assailing Pai himself with every name in the book, branding him a “fascist” and even attacking his race. The vitriol has reached an unnerving level with Pai’s children being targeted, and includes a death-threat aimed toward a supportive Congressman.
This is not a good look, and underlies the maxim that one resorting to personal attacks in a debate has admitted defeat on the facts. The left claims they have overwhelming public support for maintaining Title II government control of the internet, as exhibited by the public comments filed with the FCC during the open comment period. An astonishing 22 million public comments were filed on the FCC website as the new rule was being formulated, far surpassing the 4 million submitted when Title II was proposed in 2014.
CASE has taken a close look at the comments too. In fact, CASE conducted its own analysis over of the summer of the 7 million public comments filed at that time, and found not just millions of fake filings, but that over 65 percent of the comments that were properly filed supported a free internet without government Title II regulation. As it turns out, the left’s “public support” is as flimsy and fraudulent as their argument that Title II will promote internet freedom.
Indeed, the internet is getting less free and available since Title II went into effect, as it’s killing investment into new technology and updated infrastructure. As one can imagine, when government bureaucrats and politicians get a foot in the door, your business model becomes a lot less predictable, and more beholden to regulatory concerns rather than consumer choices.
For the first time ever, new investment in broadband fell, by a hefty $2.4 billion. This cut in investment won’t impact the hipster Title II acolytes on their new iPhones, but rural and poor consumers still waiting for the full potential of broadband to reach them. This was a key reason groups such as the NAACP, National Action Network, National Urban League and League of United Latin American Citizens opposed the implementation of Title II when it was proposed.
The fact is consumers and the public are extraordinarily fortunate to have a thoughtful technocrat like Ajit Pai heading such a vital agency. This is a man steeped in policy, and process. Unlike his predecessor, in the Obama Administration, he released a full draft of his Order weeks in advance to allow full transparency and give all a voice in the process. Despite the cries from the left, every word of his updated framework for the internet is based not on politics or special interests, but on what works best legally and economically to keep the internet the engine of transformation it has become.
Throughout the process of determining the internet’s future we have witnessed two starkly contrasting visions. We have seen a measured, thoughtful public servant, acting in full transparency to make careful decisions weighted by facts. In the opposite corner we have seen the opposition, with their highly-orchestrated mob campaign, their secrecy, their phony claims and their vitriol. Ajit Pai is a hero for taking on this mob and winning, and for doing the right thing. His actions will spur investment, spark innovation and propel technology forward. His vision will unmoor the internet, setting it free from government control. He will thankfully take us back to the future.
Gerard Scimeca is Vice President of CASE: Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.