FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's claim that there was no secret order from the Obama administration to pass "net neutrality" rules is at odds with what the White House and Democrats have said, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai tells Newsmax TV
"The president said … on WhiteHouse.gov, this is my plan and I'm asking the FCC to implement it. On the day the FCC took the vote on Feb. 26, the Democratic National Committee put out a tweet saying, Hooray! The FCC has approved President Obama's plan," Pai, a Republican, said on "The Steve Malzberg Show" Tuesday.
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"Now, you cannot square those two statements from those two entities with the notion that the FCC was acting independently. The position I've taken is that this was a break from our traditional position as an independent agency.
"Even if the president's opinion was one among many, nonetheless, it's hard to argue that his opinion was equal. Certainly, some opinions in this process were more equal than others."
Republicans have accused Wheeler, a Democrat who was appointed to the FCC by Obama, of caving in to the White House on the issue, which will place government regulation on the Internet and slap new taxes on it.
But at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing Tuesday, Wheeler insisted: "I would like to be clear: There were no secret instructions from the White House. I did not, as CEO of an independent agency, feel obligated to follow the president's recommendation."
Pai said Wheeler is in a difficult position.
"Because unfortunately, the White House's announcement was so unprecedented there was sort of an uncharted water here," he said.
"I have some sympathy for the chairman's position having proposed something in May, having tried out an alternative in the summer, just to get blindsided in November by the president and ultimately having to buckle.
"It doesn't speak well for the agency when we have these political considerations that are placed on us."
The FCC's 3-2 vote last month to adopt the new regulations will affect how Americans use and do business on the Internet. And new taxes are expected.
"They're going to be a number of different effects over the coming months and years … Most immediately what is going to happen is that the FCC has now explicitly opened the door to an increase in the tax that is going to be placed on broadband," Pai said.
"I would imagine in the next month or two we're going to see for the first time taxes placed on broadband bills. Your bill is going to go up. In the longer term, some of the more incidental effects are going to be a reduction to the amount of competition.
"Some of the smaller Internet service providers are going to find it more difficult to stay in business."
GOP lawmakers are crafting legislation in a bid to overturn net neutrality — using the threat of a court challenge to enlist Democratic support.
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