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Ajit Pai attacks California's Net Neutrality bill

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

17 September 2018

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, last week attacked the Net Neutrality legislation that has recently passed in California.

The bill, which is still currently unsigned, was designed to offer California residents Net Neutrality protections following the FCC’s rollback of its own legislation earlier this year.

Part of the FCC’s move to get rid of nationwide Net Neutrality rules also involved lessening the Commission’s jurisdiction, by reclassifying broadband and placing it out of the Commission’s reach.

Despite this, at a speech at the Maine Policy Heritage Center last Friday, Pai called the California state bill “illegal”, as well as branding it “radical,” “anti-consumer,” and “burdensome”:

Last month, the California state legislature passed a radical, anti-consumer Internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015.

The broader problem is that California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country. After all, broadband is an interstate service; Internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines. It follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area. For if individual states like California regulate the Internet, this will directly impact citizens in other states.

Among other reasons, this is why efforts like California’s are illegal.

Pai also insinuated that the California bill, authored in part by Senator Scott Weiner, would prohibit state residents from purchasing “free-data plans”, which allow consumers to stream music and video outside of their ISP’s usual data limits.

However, the California bill would not stop Californians from purchasing these plans, and Weiner did not take kindly to Pai’s words.

In a statement, Weiner accused Pai of working for the country’s largest telecommunications companies, and also said:

SB 822 is necessary and legal because Chairman Pai abdicated his responsibility to ensure an open internet. Since the FCC says it no longer has any authority to protect an open internet, it’s also the case that the FCC lacks the legal power to preempt states from protecting their residents and economy.

When Verizon was caught throttling the data connection of a wildfire fighting crew in California, Chairman Pai said nothing and did nothing. That silence says far more than his words today.

SB 822 is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, groups advocating for low income people, small and mid-size technology companies, labor unions, and President Obama’s FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler. I’ll take that support over Ajit Pai any day of the week.

It may be that the FCC’s removal of Net Neutrality rules and their shifting of the control of telecommunications means that they cannot stop California from enacting their own Net Neutrality legislation.

It looks like there’ll be a fight for Net Neutrality in California in the very near future.

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