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Ajit Pai lashes out at high profile net neutrality proponents

By Cal Jeffrey · 39 replies
Nov 28, 2017
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  1. To say Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai’s plan to deregulate broadband providers is unpopular would be an understatement. The public overwhelmingly opposes the move, and several prominent celebrities and tech companies have been very vocal on the matter. Kumail Nanjiani, Mark Ruffalo, Cher, and others, have all spoke out against Pai’s move.

    The FCC head defended his stance during an event in Washington proclaiming that the criticisms of his plan have been nothing but “hot air,” and “clickbait” media. “Given that some of the more eye-catching critiques have come from Hollywood celebrities, whose large online followings give them out-sized influence in shaping the public debate, I thought I’d respond directly to some of their assertions.”

    Pai then went on to provide long-winded rebuttals to individual criticisms voiced by named celebrities. For example, after pointing out that Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “We will never go back to a free internet,” the chairman went on a three-minute explanation on why he was wrong and how “light-touch regulation” was better than “heavy-handed micromanagement.” He repeated this process with at least four other outspoken figures including George Takei and Alyssa Milano.

    High-profile tech corporations that oppose his idea, like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others were not ignored either. He was particularly harsh against Twitter saying, “Now look: I love Twitter, but let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to a free and open internet, Twitter is a part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”

    (Pai) reiterated multiple times how his proposal merely goes back to pre-2015 light regulation...

    His stance is that tech companies are playing the victim, crying about net neutrality and wanting broadband providers to be regulated as to not restrict them, but are unwilling to face those same non-discriminatory policies themselves.

    He reiterated multiple times how his proposal merely goes back to pre-2015 light regulation — a time when the internet was not suffering any of the “absurd” injustices that opponents are suggesting will come with his plan. He adds that his proposal will also require transparency from providers and that the Federal Trade Commission will be the watchdog that will step in if unfair practices arise.

    Pai closed by saying, “So, when you get past all the wild accusations, fear mongering, hysteria; here’s the frankly boring bottom line: the plan to restore internet freedom would return to the light-touch, market-based approach under which the internet thrived.”


    Not all disagree with Pai's conclusions, and there are sound arguments in support of reclassification back to Title I arrangements.

    Ben Thompson, an independent tech and business analyst, sees the rollback of the 2015 regulations as a prudent move that will not harm the industry. He maintains that Title I rules have been effective in preventing "bad behavior" of providers since 1994 when ISPs were first classified under those regulations.

    For example, Thompson points to a case from 2005 where internet provider Madison River Communication (MRC) was blocking ports used for VoIP to promote its own service. It was a clear violation of net neutrality rules under Title I, of which Vonage filed a complaint over. The FCC stepped in and obtained a consent decree against MRC, fined them $15,000, and made the company agree not to conduct its business in such a manner again. Madison River complied, and there was never another incident of ISP port blocking from them or any other ISP since.

    Thompson also argues that there are costs to heavy regulation that more often than not exceed the provided benefits.

    "Any regulatory decision — indeed, any decision period — is about tradeoffs," he said. "To choose one course of action is to gain certain benefits and incur certain costs, and it is to forgo the benefits (and costs!) of alternative courses of action. What makes evaluating regulations so difficult is that the benefits are usually readily apparent — the bad behavior or outcome is, hopefully, eliminated — but the costs are much more difficult to quantify."

    In other words, more burdensome regulations should only be pursued if the situation demands it.

    "There is no evidence of systemic abuse by ISPs governed under Title I, which means there are no immediate benefits to regulation, only theoretical ones," he says.

    Up until 2015, there had been no fast-laning, tier structuring, or any of the other things that those regulations are meant to prevent. The reclassification to Title II was a preemptive strike against a threat that had not materialized. Furthermore, with more government regulation comes more cost, whether it is from the regulated businesses passing on higher costs to the consumer, or inflated taxes to cover the excessive oversight.

    Thompson suggests a "wait-and-see" approach. Instead of preemptively shackling providers when nothing has been done to threaten net neutrality, he thinks we should allow ISPs to continue under Title I classification. If it is seen that Title I oversight is somehow failing, we can always readopt the Title II regulations.

    "I am amenable to Congress passing a law specifically banning ISPs from blocking content, but believe that for everything else, including paid prioritization, we are better off taking a 'wait-and-see' approach; after all, we are just as likely to 'see' new products and services as we are to see startup foreclosure. And, to be sure, this is an issue than can — and should, if the evidence changes — be visited again."

    He insists that the rollback will not leave us without recourse should ISPs decide to start taking advantage of us.

    There is currently a petition hosted on the White House website calling for Mr Pai's resignation. The appeal requires at least 100,000 signatures to be considered for redress. It currently has 100,469.

    The FCC will vote on the proposal on December 14. It is expected to pass 3-2 along party lines.

    Permalink to story.

  2. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,919   +1,432

    I cannot believe this guy. The majority of Americans want the net neutrality rules issued by the FCC under the Obama administration, but he is clearly saying FU to that majority. Democracy be damned.

    Then, he has the gall to say the FTC will take care of things - even though his policy is to let ISPs willy-nilly do whatever they please as long as they post it on their policies page.

    So, if he does not like Tweeter and thinks they are discriminatory, then why does he not go to his buddies at the FTC and ask them to take care of it instead of calling them hypocrites. He is taking a hint from Trump's playbook and accusing everyone else of doing exactly what he is doing and hoping no one will notice.

    I cannot believe anyone in this country ever though that this administration would support the little guy.

    Nothing but arrogance from this guy. The singular thing that he may do in office that I see as good is back ATSC 3.0 for TV Broadcasts.
  3. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,218   +1,362

    If "they" say it, it is fake news, fear mongering and hysteria. If Pai (or the administration) says it, the "it's for the public good even if the public says otherwise" - - that's a form of paranoia.
  4. gusticles41

    gusticles41 TS Guru Posts: 296   +308

    So he doesn't like it when one person's voice is heard more loudly than the majority's?

    Let that irony sink in.
  5. mrjgriffin

    mrjgriffin TS Addict Posts: 296   +132

    Lol this guy is a piece of dog...you know. f this guy
    Jeffrey S and SirChocula like this.
  6. seefizzle

    seefizzle TS Evangelist Posts: 388   +260

    Pai should be tarred and feathered.
  7. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,218   +1,362

    IMO, one has to be a mindless, gutless YES man to work in this administration - - sigh
  8. dickdon71

    dickdon71 TS Member Posts: 40   +22

    Are there any lawyers/former lawyers that have a big profile and reputation as Ajit Pai, but instead hired to support Net Neutrality? How much would it cost if he was hired to support net neutrality instead?
  9. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,049   +1,338

    This. We don't need to regulate something that doesn't need regulating. The internet in America has been a rocket of success for the last 20 years. e-commerce, business, social media etc has transformed our lives. Why on earth would you want the govt to regulate that kind of success? To promote some idea of fairness that isn't being threatened?!

    The majority of American's also wanted Obamacare - until they got a taste of it. The big difference in the analogy though is that we've always had net neutrality. If a company were to block a website it would be a violation of the 1st Amendment. You could make the same legal argument for throttling. Anti-competitive behavior is already against the law.

    The fact is - the Obama administration passed a bunch of regulations to fix a problem that didn't exist and told us it was for our own good and the fairness of everyone to keep the internet open and free. The catchy term coined for all that fairness is 'net neutrality' Brilliant marketing - even better than 'If you like your plan, you can keep it.' Obama tried to control it so he could tax it.

    If the majority of America wanted preemptive regulation they would have elected Bernie.

    Anyway - how can you argue with the internet's success? It's been such a complete success because of the lenient rules put in place by Bill Clinton with the telecommunications act of 1996.
  10. senketsu

    senketsu TS Guru Posts: 710   +480

    the guy you link to is a total shill for business, in fact he claims the following "The U.S. is near the top of global rankings in both high-end service, with 85 percent of households served by networks capable of 100 mpbs or more and the most affordable entry-level wired broadband of any nation in the OECD." This my friends, is what I call a bald faced lie. The author Mr. Erlich is a lobbyist for the Progressive Policy Institute and president of ESC Company, an economics consulting firm, and former Under Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton Administration. He has a vested interest in his career, what is good for him and his buddies, not for you.
  11. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,992   +2,176

    LOL, yep all the tech companies are playing the victim. Oh, except for conveniently Comcast, Verizon, and Charter who just so happen to give his campaigns huge sums of cash. He should have just stopped at saying Comcast will do the right thing with no regulation, obvious lie is obvious.

    Wrong, the Obama administration (through the FCC) passed NN because big ISPs were starting to abuse their powers. Past success does not equal future success, the internet is a hell lot different than when Clinton was in office, obviously. And stop pulling the Ajit Pai bullshit card, NN was the only significant internet regulation passed, it is very light touch (contrary to what Pai says) and it doesn't go nearly far enough. Bill Clinton didn't have to deal with facebook taking Russian money to swing an election nor did he have to deal with the massive regional monopolies we have today. Fact: There are less competing companies in nearly every sector in America thanks to continued deregulation and prices in these product categories have only continued to go up. Deregulation doesn't encourage investment, it encourages companies to screw over consumers.

    "If the majority of America wanted preemptive regulation they would have elected Bernie. "

    If you think this was Bernie's platform you seriously have no idea what you are talking about. His platform was much more about fixing the current system than punishing possible offenders. You know, like white collar crime, which has been steadily rising in the US since the 1980s.

    "The majority of American's also wanted Obamacare - until they got a taste of it."

    I think you mean "until the republican's ****ed it up". FYI the individual mandate was added by the republicans. It's their playbook and they are trying to do the exact same thing with the tax bill they are currently proposing as they did during the bush era. Ignore the deficit during their term to get rich people tax breaks > Blame the democrats during their control > Get control of the government again by passing their own failure as the democrat's. Typical short term memory Americans fall right for it.

    " If a company were to block a website it would be a violation of the 1st Amendment. You could make the same legal argument for throttling. Anti-competitive behavior is already against the law."

    LOL, this is so misinformed it's not even funny. The 1st amendment does not apply to private entities so they are well within their rights to block a website for whatever reason, even political ones. Your first Amendment rights only apply as it pertains to the government. The government is the only body required here to not block your freedom of speech, no company or nobody else is.

    " Anti-competitive behavior is already against the law."

    Is it? Because in America 99% of the time they get away with it and at best get a slap on the hand with a minuscule fine. All the while, the EU is actually suing companies like Microsoft and Intel. Not to mention, the law has yet to be updated comprehensively for the digital era, many of the rules we are using were written a long time ago.
  12. Cycloid Torus

    Cycloid Torus Stone age computing. Posts: 3,564   +950

    If FCC gives us more competition, Pai may be right. Currently, this is lacking and I suspect we will get hosed. I would gladly pass on 'net neutrality' if I had 5 ISPs with 50 Mbps and up competing for my business. As it is, I have ONE - and almost 20% increase in the current year for 'nothing'.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  13. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,919   +1,432

    Interesting that this comment was instantly debunked as containing a link to yet another paid shill. That this guy can consider the internet in the US a complete success is nothing short of amazing especially since internet in the US is basically a monopoly. The idea seems akin to calling Kim Jong Il a complete success in North Korea.

    Please feel free to consider the rest of the comments in this thread as a charitable contribution to your education.
    Jeffrey S and ddferrari like this.
  14. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,919   +1,432

    Most people do not realize this - the fact is is that ISPs are abusing laws written some 100 or so years ago that were designed to protect the investment that telcos made in infrastructure. Unfortunately, they are still on the books and ISPs/cable companies have found ways to abuse them.

    I echo your comments, but if anything, as I see it, this will likely bring less competition, and less innovation except in places where the local law makers have seen fit to make it legal to compete.
  15. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,049   +1,338

    Sorry - I stopped reading when you blamed Obamacare on the republicans. A total of 0 republicans voted for Obamacare. They even sued to stop the individual mandate - it went to the Supreme Court and it was barely passed there and only because they called it a tax.

    Link me some news stories about the ISPs abusing power. Go find a lawsuit about a small company getting their service throttled and I'll concede this argument.

    And you're right - there are fewer competing companies, but it's not because of deregulation (Obama did NOT spend the last 8 years deregulating anything!) it's because of TOO MUCH regulation. Look at what Dodd-Frank did to small banks. Compliance with regulation costs money and small players can't afford it. When you have to hire lawyers and accountants to comply with a law those people aren't making money for your business. And it's very hard to start a business when you have to hire a compliance staff. You agree that a lightly regulated internet helped it form into what it is today - why do you contradict that idea in the same paragraph?

    When a company has to comply with a new regulation it costs them money. They have to replace old equipment, hire new staff, or go through a bunch of red tape that slows them down. Regulation always has a cost - it's an understood trade-off that you will slow down growth for increased safety, environmental protection etc. The point with NN is that there is no upside - we aren't getting any benefit from it. It's all just a paranoid idea that the big bad internet companies will take advantage of you. It hasn't happened.
  16. Rob Roy

    Rob Roy TS Rookie

    There was a problem. You seemed to forget Comcast throttling of NetFlix. For a period of three months watching NetFlix was watching a VGA view of movies, almost 640 , sometimes 320 on an HD TV set. Until NetFlix kick up some cash and made an agreement with Comcast. Comcast did it at the peer level, did it on purpose, and did it to gain money.
  17. Tosikko

    Tosikko TS Booster Posts: 25   +25

    @Rob Roy https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/21/...-throttling-statement-net-neutrality-title-ii

    Not all regulation is useless. Efficient regulation ensures a level playing field and that minimum standards are upheld. @Evernessince is not contradicting the argument that a free and open internet helped it become what it is today. There's nothing wrong with having ISP's (with vested interest) comply with fair practices. The suggestion @MilwaukeeMike seems to be making (that upholding Net neutrality doesn't have an upside) is hyperbole at best. Feel free to correct me on that one.

    The real issue here is that ISP's have yet to accept that they are a means to access services and information other than their own.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  18. avioza

    avioza TS Booster Posts: 151   +93

    Why do the telecom giants (FCC) want to kill it so bad then? I am genuinely curious. If nothing really has changed with net neutrality and the same protections were already there before it, on the flip side they shouldn't really care if it exists or not either.

    Is it that they don't like the constant government monitor that doesn't need a room full of lawyers to challenge them? The old way it seemed easier for them to squash the little guy with regulation? (I admit ignorance in this area, this is just speculation)

    The argument should not be over simplified, but I know one thing: I don't trust big telecom. If they hate something as much as they seem to hate net nuetrality; injecting cronies into key positions (Pai and others), fighting this hard to repeal it. Why?
  19. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Guru Posts: 449   +474

    I was a Comcast customer when it throttled Netflix, anyone who supports this tool is a fool.
    dickdon71, Panda218 and wiyosaya like this.
  20. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,919   +1,432

    How quickly people forget about this.
  21. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,919   +1,432

    That and that they do not own the internet. They may own portions of the stream, but not all of it. Worst case that I can think of, we might have each ISPs link in the route to a particular web site charging access fees.
  22. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,919   +1,432

    All very valid points. @MilwaukeeMike care to give us some answers that do not have their origin in political propaganda?

    You have two responses that appear to come from direct experience with the Comcrap/Netflix melee of throttling and its effects on the end user.
  23. funglebuddy

    funglebuddy TS Enthusiast Posts: 40   +10

    he has a face that only a brain dead orc would love
  24. SBKenn

    SBKenn TS Rookie

    If corporations control and record what we say to each other, it is a very small step to a totalitarian state of suppression of dissent, and the introduction of thought crimes. GOP are already trying to outlaw protests against their policies.
  25. funglebuddy

    funglebuddy TS Enthusiast Posts: 40   +10

    Thats what people want...government control...total Socialist Government....lets hope this never comes to pass

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