FCC chair Ajit Pai takes another step toward getting rid of net neutrality

FCC chair Ajit Pai takes another step toward getting rid of net neutrality

The battle over net neutrality just took another decisive turn

The big news this week politically was, of course, Federal Communication Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai’s release of his plan to get rid of net neutrality rules established in 2015. Pai has been threatening to do this for months, and now that he has a 3-2 Republican majority on the FCC board, he’ll likely have the support he needs on December 14th when the plan is voted on. Net neutrality, considered a core tenet of a fully open internet, has had a difficult, and short-lived, go of it here in the US –

  • Just before the first Open Internet Order establishing net neutrality was enacted in 2010, Comcast sued the FCC over a 2008 decision establishing its intent to police ISPs for net neutrality, and won. That decision essentially overturned the Open Internet Order that followed, since the FCC, according to the ruling, did not have the power to regulate net neutrality.
  • Another lawsuit, this time in 2014 by Verizon, nailed the coffin shut when the same decision was reached.
  • The victory for ISPs was Pyrrhic, however: in the 2014 decision, the judges argued that the FCC did not have the power to regulate ISPs, based on how they’d previously classified them. So, later that same year, the FCC reclassified the ISPs as telecommunications services – as opposed to the previous classification of information services – and passed a new set of net neutrality rules.
  • After a new suit by ISPs failed in June of 2015, the rules went into effect.
  • This year, Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as chair of the FCC, and with the confirmation of Brendan Carr as the fifth and final FCC commissioner, Republicans gained a majority on the board.
  • A public commenting period on the repeal plan has been riddled with controversy and fraud: at least 800,000 of the 22 million submitted comments have the same generic text critical of net neutrality, and, according to the FCC, millions of other comments contain form messages supporting net neutrality. More than a million comments, as well, were submitted from addresses in France, Russia, and Germany, according to the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative political nonprofit.

Although ISPs have been lining up behind Pai’s plan to get rid of net neutrality (and in fact, were fighting for it long before Pai’s plan was released), many of them have also promised to abide by net neutrality principles regardless. Critics, however, can point to a long history of ISPs doing the opposite. On December 7th, supporters of net neutrality will protest in front of Verizon stores across the country.

Quick take: what’s happening here is politics, plain and simple. The ISPs all claim to support net neutrality, but they’re fighting for something they value even more: a free market. The argument is that competition will naturally take care of net neutrality, since no consumer will want to spend their money with an ISP that restricts their internet freedom. The problem with this argument is, of course, that history doesn’t bear this out: ISPs have been caught tampering a number of times, and the fear of net neutrality supporters is that, with the FCC’s decidedly pro-ISP turn, this will only get worse.

For a more in-depth explainer, take a look at this piece I wrote for WikiTribune on Friday.

Net neutrality is not necessarily a red-blue issue. As Slate's Aaron Mak observes, Trump supporters on Reddit are divided on what to think.

Bonus round:

An attack on a mosque in Egypt’s “troubled northern Sinai” region by suspected ISIS militants left more than 300 people dead and 128 injured.

  • The attack was the deadliest in the country’s modern history, and the “first major militant attack on a Muslim congregation.”


Who’s in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? On Friday, outgoing director Richard Cordray, a Democrat, “named his deputy as his acting replacement” until the Senate confirms a new director. President Trump also named an acting director – Mick Mulvaney, his budget chief, who has stated in the past that he doesn’t believe the CFPB should exist.

  • The CFPB, established under President Obama after the financial crisis, has extracted billions of dollars from banks, auto dealers, student lenders, and credit card companies “for alleged predatory lending practices.”
  • Republicans don’t like the CFPB, because it’s not subject to congressional oversight: “The CFPB’s current governing structure is a dictatorship, period,” says Richard Hunt, head of the Consumer Bankers Association.


Turkey’s foreign minister told reporters on Friday that “President Trump…has instructed U.S. generals to stop supplying arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria.”

  • The White House did not confirm the account, but did, in an official statement, allude to “pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners.”
  • The move, long sought after by Turkey, “appeared to catch the U.S. State Department and Pentagon off-guard.”


In a sign that Michael Flynn may be cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, his lawyers “have told [President] Trump’s legal team they can no longer” discuss Mueller’s probe, according to the New York Times.


If you’re a Washington Post subscriber, or haven’t hit the paywall yet, take a look at this in-depth piece from Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz on how Jeff Sessions is reshaping the Justice Department “to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views.”

header image: FCC chair Ajit Pai, USDA / flickr

International roundup: terror attack in Egypt, Hariri returns to Lebanon, and Zimbabwe gets a new president

Robert Mugabe refuses to quit, shocking the world and setting in play a possible constitutional crisis.

Robert Mugabe refuses to quit, shocking the world and setting in play a possible constitutional crisis.