Pai: The Buck Stops With Obama

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai has called FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s Title II proposal an unlawful power grab, but he isn’t calling it Wheeler’s proposal at all.

Pai, a Republican, continues to ascribe the proposal for Title II-based Internet rules circulated last week (see cover story) to President Obama, and he scheduled a press conference for this week to make that point even clearer.

President Obama came out strongly for Title II reclassification of Internet access last fall, which the plan proposes. Wheeler has always said Title II utility-style, common-carrier rules were on the table, though he initially proposed a different path to restoring network-neutrality rules. A top Wheeler aide last week said Title II was being considered as at least part of a solution for the past four or five months, but House Republicans are launching an investigation into the relationship between the White House and FCC.

“I am disappointed that the plan will not be released publicly,” Pai, who had previously criticized Title II reclassification, said last Friday (Feb. 6) in a public statement. He then outlined what he said were the key takeaways:

“First, President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works. …

“Second, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will increase consumers’ monthly broadband bills. The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband.

“Third, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will mean slower broadband for American consumers. The plan contains a host of new regulations that will reduce investment in broadband networks.

“Fourth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will hurt competition and innovation and move us toward a broadband monopoly.

“Fifth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet is an unlawful power grab. Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation.

“Sixth, the American people are being misled about what is in President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.