[N.B. This article was originally published February 10, 2015]
Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, has become outspoken in his objections to the political imposition of Net Neutrality by what is supposed to be an independent Federal commission.
Commissioner Pai noted that: “It’s no wonder that net neutrality proponents are already bragging that it will turn the FCC into the “Department of the Internet. For that reason, if you like dealing with the IRS, you are going to love the President’s plan."
Many progressives have rallied around the concept of Net Neutrality thinking that it is hurting corporations and encouraging competition. What Commissioner Pai points out is that applying Title II regulation to the internet, which was designed for railroads and Ma Bell, will stifle competition and favor behemoth businesses because of the regulatory burdens.
Congressional critics such as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) have likened Net Neutrality as being Obamacare for the Internet, regulations sold to lower prices and improve delivery but which in reality do the opposite while making Uncle Sam the undisputed middle man.
Another alarming feature of such broad regulation by the FCC is the relative obscurity in which the rules are being cobbled together. President Obama pressured the FCC in November 2014 about Net Neutrality. Chairman Tom Wheeler, who had been a big Obama fundraiser, is complying but promises to make some changes in Title II to make it better. Oh, so a regulatory schemata which was drawn up in 14 can be tweaked to apply to the internet age. Right. FCC Commissioner Mike O'Reilly warned the public about the dangers of forbearance as applied to Title II Common Carriers.
There is the larger issue, however, about whether Congress ceded its legislative mantle to the FCC to strictly regulate the internet. If we hold fast to living in a constitutional democratic Republic, shouldn't our elected representatives, not bureaucrats who are unaccountable to the people (or for that matter Men in Black) be crafting such momentous law?
UPDATE 01/23/2017 President Trump is poised to name Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC, replacing Democrat activist FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. Pai has been a critic of the Commission's impetus to impose net neutrality and thereby expand the FCC's role into regulating the Internet.