Net Neutrality Hits a Nerve, Eliciting Intense Reactions
The New York Times cited the Competitive Enterprise Institute in its support of internet regulation reforms that seek to create a more regulation-free environment.
It usually doesn’t take much to get people on the internet worked up. To get them really worked up, make the topic internet regulation.
In the week since the Federal Communications Commission released a plan to scrap existing rules for internet delivery, more than 200,000 phone calls, organized through online campaigns, have been placed to Congress in protest. An additional 500,000 comments have been left on the agency’s website. On social media sites like Twitter and Reddit, the issue has been a leading topic of discussion.
In some cases, views on the sweeping change, which would repeal landmark regulations meant to ensure an open internet, have turned into personal attacks. The agency’s chairman, Ajit Pai, said threatening calls and emails had poured into his home and his wife’s work. An image of a protest poster with his children’s names was posted online and spread widely. Ethnic slurs aimed at Mr. Pai, whose parents immigrated from India, littered his Twitter feed.
But Mr. Pai, a Republican nominated for the chairmanship by President Trump, said the regulations were heavy-handed and prevented telecom companies from pursuing new business models. His proposal, by stripping away the existing rules, would allow telecom companies to charge websites to deliver their data at higher speeds.
In a speech on Tuesday, Mr. Pai addressed some of the concerns that have been voiced since he released his proposal, pointing specifically to comments by celebrities like Cher and Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley.” He said their tweets warning that his rules would lead to authoritarianism and a handout to big cable companies were “utterly absurd.”
“I’d like to cut through hysteria and hot air and speak in plain terms about the plan,” Mr. Pai said, adding that the plan would bring back the regulation-free policy that helped the internet thrive. He said big tech companies might be a bigger threat to online speech than telecom companies.
The proposal is expected to be approved at a meeting of the five F.C.C. commissioners on Dec. 14. The two other Republican commissioners have already expressed their support for Mr. Pai.
The 2015 rules also elicited strong interest. The F.C.C. site was overwhelmed with comments after a monologue from the late-night host John Oliver went viral online. Some people who wanted the stronger rules blocked the driveway of the chairman at the time, Tom Wheeler, to try to persuade him to change the agency’s plan.
Mr. Pai, who opposed the rules as a commissioner in 2015, gave broad outlines of his plans early this year. For months, comments to the F.C.C. website piled up, to more than 20 million. President Barack Obama’s clean power plan, perhaps his biggest policy change at the Environmental Protection Agency, attracted 4.3 million comments over six months.
But the intensity has increased even more since Mr. Pai released the details of the proposal — perhaps in part because few people expected him to try to strip all of the existing rules.
“We never expected this,” wrote Craig Moffett, an analyst at the research firm MoffettNathanson.
Lawmakers, celebrities, founders of start-ups and consumers have continued to hash out the debate into this week.
Conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the Competitive Enterprise Institute praised the rollback. The radio host Rush Limbaugh defended Mr. Pai’s plan on Monday in an online post. He dismissed concerns by supporters of the rules, whom he described as liberal “millennials and tech bloggers.”
Read the full article at The New York Times.