A so-called net neutrality proposal to regulate the Internet like a public utility is "a solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist," one highly critical Federal Communications Commission member says on the eve of a vote on the plan.
In a televised interview with Reason.com aired
Wednesday, Ajit Pai, an opponent of expanding government control of the Internet, blasted FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under the same so-called Title II rules used to govern telephone-service providers as public utilities.
"Do you trust the federal government to make the Internet ecosystem more vibrant than it is today?" Pai asks. "Can you think of any regulated utility like the electric company or water company that is as innovative as the Internet?"
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Current FCC regulations consider ISPs providers of "information services" not subject to federal regulation. Reason.com reports it had been thought last year Wheeler would not push for treating ISPs like public utilities.
"[T]hese kind of Title II common carrier regulations ironically will be completely counterproductive," Pai says. "It’s going to sweep a lot of these smaller providers away who simply don’t have the ability to comply with all these regulations, and moreover it’s going to deter investment in broadband networks, so ironically enough, this hypothetical problem that people worry about is going to become worse because of the lack of competition."
Pai also hammers President Barack Obama's push to influence policy at the FCC.
"This came, essentially, at the insistence of the White House, which I said, to this day, is asking the FCC to implement the president’s plan," he charges. "I think the White House changed the landscape dramatically with the president’s announcement shortly after the midterm elections that he wanted the FCC to adopt Title II regulations…
"There have been other examples of presidents weighing in with a letter or a phone call, that kind of thing," he adds. "But creating a YouTube video of a website with very specific prescriptions as to what this agency should do, followed by the agency suddenly changing course from where it was to mimic the president’s plan, I think suggests that the independence of the agency has been compromised to some extent."
The commissioner also decried regulations the Obama administration has warned against when used by foreign governments.
"On the international stage, a lot of foreign governments, especially oppressive governments, would love nothing more than to have more direct control over both the infrastructure of the Internet and the content that rides over those networks," he notes.
"The [United States], to its credit, has spoken with a single voice against such efforts, but I think to the extent to Title II and the FCC’s plans to micromanage the same nuts and bolts of the network, it becomes harder for us on the international stage to make that case, to persuade other countries to go down the same road."
The FCC is scheduled to vote Thursday morning on Wheeler's controversial proposal, according to The Hill.
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