(Note - as a follow up to yesterday's item, my appearance on Radio Islam on WCEV 1450 AM will be on Tuesday, December 19th, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm CST. Available via radio or streaming. And now, Ajit Pai and Net Neutrality...)
When Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and two of his colleagues voted to end net neutrality, it wasn't just a strike against digital access...but also a move to stifle free speech.
And for that, Mr. Pai, you are a total Grinch who deserves every bit of criticism. Every bit.
The idea behind "net neutrality" is simply this: the internet is seen as "neutral." Anyone can access it, provide information, create content...and that internet service providers (ISPs) had limits on their activities. This assured competition of ideas - and the marketplace - and allowed for innovation.
But just like the Grinch stealing Christmas gifts in Whoville, Ajit Pai and his associates forced this decision through despite the will of the American people (83% of Americans favor net neutrality, and FCC members are appointed not elected), their own party (75% of Republicans are in favor of net neutrality, and the opposing view of Net Neutrality has just been debunked by the Inspector General's office). And of course, Ajit Pai's behavior - ranging from claiming to be a "Verizon puppet" to drinking out of a ridiculously large Reese's mug - has not endeared him to anyone.
Of course, there will be the obvious argument that this will result in two "lanes" of the internet: one lane for consumers and a "faster" lane for businesses. Innovation will cease because small businesses will be forced to pay exorbitant fees to access the internet, but the reality is that the damage...will be far worse.programs for low-income residents and removing the requirement for broadcasters to have local affiliates. Rather than provide "competition", Ajit Pai is creating an oligarchy of information control...and if this is the free speech fight of our generation, then Ajit Pai released the opening salvo against Net Neutrality.
Already, the FCC is scaling back broadband access for low -income Americans. The FCC is also removing the requirement that broadcasters have local affiliates. In short, Ajit Pai and his colleagues who voted to end net neutrality have shot the opening salvo in what is being called the free speech fight of our generation.
Digital access has become part of our social, civic, and economic infrastructure, and this move only serves to deny non-mainstream voices. Given the lack of empathy and sheer contempt that Ajit Pai is showing the greater community, he has made it clear that although he talks about "light-touch regulation," Ajit Pai wields the heavy hand of fascism.
But in the spirit of the holiday, there are a few things that give me hope. Even if Ajit Pai never changes his mind, Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass) has introduced efforts to maintain net neutrality via the Congressional Review Act. Several state Attorney Generals (including Illinois) will be suing the FCC to keep Net Neutrality (California is also introducing legislation mandating net neutrality for internet service providers doing business in that state. Various communities are banding together to fight Ajit Pai and his efforts...
...and that brings me joy. Because I have no hope that Ajit Pai will have experience his heart growing three sizes larger.
In fact, at the risk of being a Grinch myself, I hope he has a very unhappy holiday....after all, he brought it all on himself.