Ajit Pai Continues to Win Big: Gets a New Term on FCC Despite His Plan to Destroy Net Neutrality
Ajit Pai has been reconfirmed by the US Senate as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission despite his vocal stance against the net neutrality rules and in favor of deregulating Internet Service Providers.
Pai was to leave the FCC by the end of this year if Senate hadn't approved President Trump's request to give him a new term with a 52-41 vote, mostly along the party lines. His new five-year term is retroactive to July 1, 2016.
I do not have confidence @AjitPaiFCC will stand up for consumers instead of kowtowing to Big Cable’s demands. I voted no on his confirmation.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 2, 2017
"A vote for Pai is a vote against consumers and for Big Cable"
His reconfirmation was opposed by a majority of Democrats and consumer rights groups who accused him for working on behalf of "big cable" companies and not for the American public. "Since taking over the FCC leadership in January, Chairman Pai has wasted no time in moving the agency away from its key mission to promote the use and deployment of communications in the public interest," Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington said in a speech.
"Since the birth of the internet, its defining feature has been that all bits, all information, get equal access. No matter if you were a big company, or a mom-and-pop ice cream shop with a website, your content reached people’s homes at the same speed.
"[But Pai is] planning to blow up the level playing field that is so crucial to innovation and free speech online, and that allows the startup trying to get out of the garage to become the next YouTube, Google or eBay." - Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.
But surprisingly four Democrats did vote in favor of Pai's confirmation despite the party's opposition to his plans of giant broadcaster mergers and no accountability of telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast. The Chairman received 48 Republicans and 4 votes from Democrats. These four included (from the official Senate website): Joseph Manchin (D-W.V.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
Chairman Pai gave the following statement after the voting process, which was largely a formality:
"I am deeply grateful to the U.S. Senate for confirming my nomination to serve a second term at the FCC and to President Trump for submitting that nomination to the Senate. Since January, the Commission has focused on bridging the digital divide, promoting innovation, protecting consumers and public safety, and making the FCC more open and transparent. With today’s vote, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to advance these critical priorities in the time to come."
Before the vote, an online petition against Pai's reconfirmation from a consumer advocacy group received over 130,000 signatures.
Despite protests Ajit Pai will continue dismantling consumer-friendly regulations
While the President and the Senate have voted to extend Pai's tenure at the FCC, he will be in for a rough ride as consumer rights groups gear to fight him against his zealous support for giant companies. But, nothing has deterred Pai, so far. He already has got some big jobs done in favor of the major industry players, including removing the restriction that limited the number of television stations some broadcasters can buy, clearing way for Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc's proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media Co.
— Sen. Maria Cantwell (@SenatorCantwell) October 2, 2017
The Chairman also paved way for ISPs to collect private user information, including browsing history, and sell it to third party services without prior user consent.
With these things done, both in favor of the big companies, the Chairman - who was previously a Verizon employee - is now focused on hitting net neutrality at its core and deregulating ISPs, instead of considering internet a utility. Pai believes that the ISPs will voluntarily follow net neutrality rules but no one is falling for Chairman's argument. "Any talk of a voluntary solution to Net Neutrality is simply nonsense," Senator Wyden said.
"Allowing an internet provider to voluntarily follow Net Neutrality protections, is like my nine year-old son voluntarily limiting himself to one dessert - it’s not going to happen!"