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Tags: feds | crackdown | websites | net neutrality | free speech

FCC's Ajit Pai: Feds Could Tamp Down on Political Websites

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2015 07:40 AM

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Ajit Pai said that the federal government has an "impulse" to regulate Internet content ostensibly to ensure that the ideas available on the Web are balanced, CNS News reported.

"It is conceivable to me to see the government saying, 'We think the Drudge Report is having a disproportionate effect on our political discourse. He doesn't have to file anything with the FEC [Federal Election Commission]. The FCC doesn't have the ability to regulate anything he says, and we want to start tamping down on websites like that.'"

Pai said he could easily see how the net neutrality decision by the Democratic-controlled FEC, which takes effect June 12 and reclassifies Internet providers as utilities, could drift "over to the direction of content."

According to Pai, "What you're seeing now is an impulse not just to regulate the roads over which traffic goes, but the traffic itself," CNS reported.

Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, and backed by new media firms such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit, favored imposing FCC regulation so that companies that control the broadband world — Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable, for example — can be blocked from charging for faster delivery to transport their content.

The pro-net neutrality argument is that less well-off companies and news outlets that are unable to afford to pay for fast lane services will quickly lose impatient customers, who will turn elsewhere.

Pai told the annual Right Online conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday that he and his family had been harassed because of the positions he has taken on the commission, CNS reported. The conference is a project of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which is backed by the Koch brothers.

Obama nominated Pai, a lawyer, to serve as one of two Republicans on the five-member FCC.

"Is it unthinkable that some government agency would say the marketplace of ideas is too fraught with dissonance? That everything from the Drudge Report to Fox News," for example, "is playing unfairly in the online political speech sandbox? I don't think so," Pai said.

He added, "I sense that among a substantial number of Americans and a disturbing number of regulators here in Washington that online speech is [considered] a dangerous brave new world that needs to be regulated," CNS reported.

He told CNS that the Universal Service Fund, an FCC levy on utilities which presently draws $12 billion in revenue, could now also be levied against Internet providers. The fund offers a $9.95 subsidy to help defray the cost of a landline for eligible low-income households. It also covers the E-rate program, which subsidizes Internet connectivity in schools and libraries located in low-income communities.

Pai told CNS that unless Congress stepped in, the FCC might try to expand broadband subsidies to cover more of the population, requiring billions more in FCC revenue and taxes.

Watch the video here.

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Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai, one of two Republicans on the five-member commission, says he's concerned that the government will try to control websites like the Drudge Report based on their political content, CNS News reports.
feds, crackdown, websites, net neutrality, free speech
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 07:40 AM
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