Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman appointed by Donald Trump, recently announced plans to end net neutrality rules implemented under the Obama administration. The decision would have far-reaching implications for every American, as billion-dollar conglomerates like Comcast and Verizon would be given free reign to rule the Internet as they see fit. For example, Internet service providers could conceivably create a two-tier pay-to-play Internet, where websites are charged extra fees for faster load speeds and other preferential treatments. ISPs could also slow down their competitors’ websites, block content it disagrees with, and impose data limits on users.
Not surprisingly, ending net neutrality is a deeply unpopular policy decision, with 76% of Americans in favor of keeping the current polices in place. Pai, who must answer to cable and Internet lobbyists funding his beach house, has responded by launching a misinformation campaign. He’s dubbed the proposed act “Restoring Internet Freedom” (even though it literally does the complete opposite) and embarked on a speaking tour to explain why the proposed policy is “media hysteria” (it’s not).
Today, Pai gave a speech before the R Street Institute and Lincoln Network, a pair of right-wing think tanks which have spent millions seeking to circumvent net neutrality rules. You can read the transcript here, but here’s the basic gist: The media is lying to you, and cable companies (which can’t be bothered to show up for an installation appointment on time and lace their bills with hidden fees) have the best interests of consumers in mind. According to Pai, heavy-handed regulations have prevented the CEOs of Comcast and Verizon from investing and building high-speed Internet networks which, in turn, has stifled innovation. (There’s actually no evidence suggesting this to be the case).
As his entire argument is rooted in fiction and there’s only so many ways to lie otherwise, Pai was left with a substantial amount of time to fill. So, he took a page from ol’ Trump and used the rest of his speech to mock his critics… with some hilariously awful puns.
“Then there is this critique offered by Mark Ruffalo: ‘Taking away #NetNeutrality is the Authoritarian dream. Consolidating information in the hands of a few controlled by a few. Dangerous territory.’ I will confess when I saw this tweet I was tempted to just say ‘Hulk . . . wrong’ and move on.”
“Alyssa Milano tweeted, ‘We’ve faced a lot of issues threatening our democracy in
the last year. But, honestly, the FCC and @AjitPaiFCC’s dismantling of #NetNeutrality is one the biggest.’ If this were Who’s the Boss?, this would be an opportunity for Tony Danza to dish out some wisdom about the consequences of making things up.”
Instead, Pai argues that it’s tech giants like Twitter who truly deserve our outrage, and not because they allowed Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“Let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to an open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate. As just one of many examples, two months ago, Twitter blocked Representative Marsha Blackburn from advertising her Senate campaign launch video because it featured a pro-life message. Before that, during the so-called Day of Action, Twitter warned users that a link to a statement by one company on the topic of Internet regulation ‘may be unsafe.’ And to say the least, the company appears to have a double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users. This conduct is many things, but it isn’t fighting for an open Internet.”
I think most sensible people would agree that the problem with Twitter is that it doesn’t do enough to police questionable content, including hate speech, race-baiting, or factually inaccurate news headlines.
Again, many of Pai’s arguments against net neutrality are factually incorrect. What he failed to mention are the countless benefits of net neutrality, such as providing fair competition to small independent businesses like ourselves who don’t have the financial capital to pay for “fast lanes”; protecting free speech, no matter how provocative or explicit; and ensuring that people of all kinds, including those in poverty, have access to internet.
But don’t take my word for it: