Over the weekend Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Ajit Pai said he anticipates that, as a result of the passage of net neutrality regulations, federal regulators will attempt to control political websites – such as the Drudge Report – through the FCC or Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
As reported by CNS News, Pai, who is one of only two Republican members of the FCC, discussed his own ordeal of harassment as a result of his opposition to net neutrality during the annual “Right Online” conference in Washington, D.C. Saturday. As a panelist, Pai explained to attendees, “I can tell you it has not been an easy couple of months personally. My address has been publicly released. My wife’s name, my kids’ names, my kids’ birthdays, my phone number, all kinds of threats [have come] online.”
The new net neutrality regulations, passed by the FCC at the end of February, will take effect on June 12 and will reclassify broadband Internet providers as public utilities.
Initially, the new regulations will command broadband companies not to block online traffic, but Pai said he foresees the federal government controlling website content as well in the future.
“I could easily see this migrating over to the direction of content… What you’re seeing now is an impulse not just to regulate the roads over which traffic goes, but the traffic itself,” he said.
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. 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 government agencies could determine “that everything from the Drudge Report to Fox News…is playing unfairly in the online political speech sandbox.”
“The First Amendment means not just the cold parchment that’s in the Constitution,” he said. “It’s an ongoing cultural commitment, and 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.”