Thursday at the Federal Communications Commission meeting on open Internet rules and access to broadband Internet, Commissioner Ajit Pai made a statement before the FCC vote to take unprecedented control over the internet with a secret plan.
Transcript as follows:
“The Wall Street Journal reports that it was developed through ‘an unusual secretive effort inside the White House.’ Indeed, White House officials, according to the Journal, functioned as a parallel version of the FCC. Their work led to the president’s announcement in November of his plan for internet regulation, a plan which the report says blindsided the FCC and swept aside months of work by Chairman Wheeler toward a compromise. Now, of course, a few insiders were clued in about what was transpiring. Here’s what a leader for the government-funded group Fight for the Future had to say, ‘We’ve been hearing for weeks from our allies in D.C that the only thing that could stop FCC chairman Tom Wheeler from moving ahead with his sham proposal to gut net neutrality was if we could get the president to step in. So we did everything in our power to make that happen. We took the gloves off and played hard, and now we get to celebrate a sweet victory. Congratulations. what the press has called the parallel FCC at the White House opened its door to a plethora of special interest activists. Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, and Public Knowledge, just to name a few. Indeed, even before activists were blocking the chairman’s driveway late last year, some of them had met with executive branch officials.
“But what about the rest of the American people? They certainly couldn’t get White House meetings. They were shut out of the process altogether. They were being played for fools. And the situation didn’t improve once the White House announced President Obama’s plan, and ‘asked’ the FCC to implement it. The document in front of us today differs dramatically from the proposal that the FCC put out for comment last May, and it differs so dramatically that even zealous net neutrality advocates frantically rushed in, in recent days, to make last-minute filings, registering their concerns that the FCC might be going too far. Yet, the American people, to this day, have not been allowed to see President Obama’s plan. It has remained hidden.
“Especially given the unique importance of the internet, Commissioner O’Rielly and I ask for the plan to be released to the public. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune and House of Representatives Chairman did the same. According to a survey last week by a respected democratic polling firm, 79% of the American people favored making the document public. Still, the FCC has insisted on keeping it behind closed doors. We have to pass President Obama’s 317-page plan so the American people can find out what’s in it. This isn’t how the FCC should operate. We should be an independent agency making decisions in a transparent manner based on the law and the facts in the record.
“We shouldn’t be a rubber stamp for political decisions made by the White House. And we should have released this plan to the public, solicited their feedback, incorporated that input into the plan, and then proceeded to a vote. There was no need for us to resolve this matter today. There is no immediate crisis in the internet marketplace that demands immediate action. now. The backers of the president’s plan know this. But they also know that the details of this plan cannot stand up to the light of day. They know that the more the American people learn about it, the less they will like it. That is why this plan was developed behind closed doors at the White House. And that is why the plan has remained hidden from public view.
“These aren’t my only concerns. Even a cursory look at the plan reveals glaring legal plans that are sure to mire the agency in the muck of litigation for a long, long time. but rather than address them today, I will reserve them for my written statement. At the beginning of this proceeding, I quoted Google’s former CEO, who once said, the internet is the first thing that humanity has built, that humanity doesn’t understand. This proceeding makes it abundantly clear that the FCC still doesn’t get it. but the American people clearly do. The proposed government regulation of the internet has awakened a sleeping giant. I’m optimistic we’ll look back on today’s vote as a temporary deviation from the bipartisan consensus that’s served us so well. I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future commission, But I do believe its days are numbered. For all of those reasons, I dissent.”
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