FCC: Hello, Pai. Goodbye, Net Neutrality

Carl Weinschenk

President Trump has elevated Ajit Pai from commissioner to Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He will officially replace Tom Wheeler, who resigned as of the end of the Obama administration.

Pai is the senior Republican FCC commissioner. Interestingly, he was appointed by Barack Obama in 2012. Pai was the most vocal opponent of Wheeler, and was particularly ardent in reaction to the net neutrality rules, which are the former commissioner’s legacy accomplishment. The story suggests that Pai will be “at least as supportive” as Wheeler on freeing up spectrum for 5G and streamlining equipment siting and deployment for the new cellular standard, according to RCR Wireless.

On December 7, Pai spoke to the Free State Foundation, which is the source of much of today’s analysis. He clearly stated that the net neutrality rules, which mandate equal treatment of all content, were doomed under President Trump.

On the day that the Title II Order was adopted, I said that “I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future Commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered.” Today, I am more confident than ever that this prediction will come true. And I’m hopeful that beginning next year, our general regulatory approach will be a more sober one that is guided by evidence, sound economic analysis, and a good dose of humility.


What he didn’t know that day, of course, is that he would head up the wrecking crew. A substantive insight into Pai’s positions was posted by Devin Coldewey at TechCrunch. Being substantive, of course, doesn’t mean it is fair and balanced. That said, it is critical of Pai.

Pai, the piece says, has written many things that are “worryingly incendiary.” Coldewey does say that it is wrong to call Pai’s viewpoints unreasonable and credits him with having a willingness to negotiate and compromise. But, at the end of the day, Coldewey says that Pai has consistently come down on one side:

It turns out that industry giants are almost always the gainers in Pai’s ostensibly by-the-book objections, often in the form of being allowed to continue doing what they’ve been doing for years or decades. This isn’t because he’s an industry plant — something people thought about Wheeler, by the way — but because he’s a die-hard free market Republican who truly believes that largely unregulated competition is the path forward. And like any other ambitious politician, he isn’t afraid to cherry-pick facts or manipulate the message to achieve that goal.

Obama famously said that “elections have consequences.” It seems that one of those consequences almost certainly will be the end of net neutrality.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

 


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