The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently in its weeklong ‘sunshine’ period before the February 26 meeting that will see the agency vote on new net neutrality regulations. The sunshine period means that the FCC takes time away from external meetings on the topics it is going to vote on. Also, missives sent to the FCC during the period do not make it into the formal record of the issue.
That was the situation that saw a deluge of commentary this past week, as groups and Congress tried to get their final say in. Given that I hope you did not spend your past week or so, as I did, reading as many Hot Takes on the issue as I could, let’s go over some of the best, and the rest.
Commissioner Ajit Pai’s One-Man Army
Commissioner Ajit Pai held a press conference dinging Chairman Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality plan, followed by a fusillade of media appearances and other utterances. Given that Pai’s team, the Republican Party, is likely going to lose the upcoming vote, it appears to be his only method of registering dissent.
Politico: “Pai embraces chief critic role on net neutrality.” A sample:
“He’s more interested in grandstanding than getting something done,” said one former staffer. “He’s always saying we won’t negotiate with him — that we won’t compromise, but when his idea of compromise is to gut the order, than why even negotiate?”
Some at the commission also chafe at Pai’s efforts to portray himself as an everyman fighting for the little guy. Wheeler has taken hits for being a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist, but Pai — they point out — once worked for Verizon and stakes out positions that tend to favor the big telecom companies.
That is a tired, 2012 talking point, repackaged and repurposed for a 2015 regulatory battle? Do we award points for that?
And here’s Pai claiming that we are Aiding The Enemy: “GOP regulator warns net neutrality rules would embolden Cuba, China.”
“If in the United States we adopt regulations that assert more government control over how the Internet operates … it becomes a lot more difficult for us to go on the international stage and tell governments: ‘Look, we want you to keep your hands off the internet,’” he said.
“Even if the ideas aren’t completely identical, you can appreciate the optical difficult in trying to make that case,” he added.
And finally, this passage from Commissioner Pai’s own joint op-ed:
If all of this comes as a surprise, you’re not alone. The plan has not been made public. And the FCC has made it clear that it won’t be released until after the agency’s commissioners vote on it. This is not right. We should have an open, transparent debate about whether the president’s plan for Internet regulation is right for America’s consumers. In our view, it most certainly is not.
Lets’ move on.
AT&T Is All, Like, We’re Going To Sue
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson isn’t too happy:
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Dozens of tech companies signed a letter indicating their support for the current FCC net neutrality plan. Among the firms that signed on were Etsy, Tumblr, Kickstarter, GitHub and Yelp.
Here’s a sample from the missive:
Chairman Wheeler’s plan is the best proposal we have seen to date for protecting the open Internet. While there are important details yet to be finalized, the substance of the rules that the Chairman circulated last week are encouraging. Any attempt to undermine the Chairman’s proposal through obfuscation and innuendo is not productive, and certainly does not represent the opinion of the startups and entrepreneurs that have worked so hard to make the Internet great.
Congress Is Suddenly Full Of Internet Experts
Congress now has not one, not two, but three investigations into the FCC’s operations and handling of net neutrality. A common complaint is that the White House was mean to Chairman Wheeler by releasing its own plan, exerting Big Kid pressure on the agency, and effectively canceling its independence.
Despite Chairman Wheeler’s consistent claim that he decided on a Title II approach on his own, suspicions are, among the credulous and boorish bores of The Hill, running hot. I think that Congress, irked that its bill, which would have gutted the FCC of its authority over the open Internet, appears dead, is pulling a Pai to some extent.
When all you have is a gavel, everything starts to look like a scandal.
Important, Reasoned Commentary From Biased Think Tanks And Other Collectives That Take Donations From The Industry They Support
Now less than a week away, it’s the final at-bats for this particular bout of net neutrality. Let’s hope it’s our last pennant.