Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) has written to newly appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai in defense of net neutrality, vowing to “fight to protect it every step of the way.”
Pai has publicly opposed net neutrality as championed by former Chairman Tom Wheeler since before the Open Internet order was put in place — and afterwards, published a 67-page critique of its implementation. He seems unlikely to be swayed, so this is really more gauntlet than letter that Senator Franken has sent his way.
As Chairman, you have an obligation to protect Americans’ access to diverse information sources and to ensure that the internet remains a tool for American innovation, economic growth, and public discourse. I have no doubt that you recognize the significance of your new role, but your stated opposition to strong net neutrality rules raises serious concerns about your commitment to honoring the First Amendment.
Whatever course Pai and his colleagues on the commission choose to pursue, it won’t be a quick reversal. Wheeler’s order can’t just be rescinded overnight; action to replace it must be proposed, debated and publicly commented on. The original order drew some 4 million comments, mostly positive (as Franken points out), and a replacement would likely draw a similar level of attention.
The FCC has a meeting tomorrow, but net neutrality and other serious issues may not even be brought up: the agenda is full of ordinary business like TV station licensing. But anything is possible these days, and we’ll be watching; it’ll be streamed live from the FCC’s website starting at 10:30 AM Eastern.