Republicans Question Presidential Influence over FCC’s Net Neutrality Proposal

by Matt Klassen on February 13, 2015

As expected Republicans have come out with guns blazing against the Federal Communications Commission’s most recent plan to establish Net Neutrality standards to regulate the Internet, but surprisingly the most vocal opposition is actually coming from within the FCC itself.

Earlier this week FCC Republican commissioner Ajit Pai went public with his concerns over Chairman Tom Wheeler’s intent to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act, arguing that the proposal will give the government far too much power over the broadband industry and the Internet itself. His concerns were echoed by Michael O’Rielly, the only other Republican commissioner to sit on the Commission, who revealed that information given to the public regarding the new plan is not the entire truth.

The resistance from Pai and O’Rielly are but two of the newest Republican voices added to the ever-growing chorus of dissenters, which was certainly to be expected. But the latest challenge to this proposal, which the FCC will vote on later this month, is not regarding its legal foundation, nor its impact on the industry, but the inappropriate involvement of the devil himself, as many are questioning whether President Obama had a hand in swaying the decision of the Commission away from a controversial and wholly unsatisfactory previous proposal towards what we’re seeing today.

“Ever since the Internet was created, it’s been organized around basic principles of openness, fairness and freedom,” President Obama said regarding Net Neutrality in November. “There are no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access. There are no toll roads on the information superhighway,” he said. “Abandoning these principles would threaten to end the Internet as we know it.”

These words stand as a succinct embodiment of the Net Neutrality cause, the pursuit of an Internet that operates as a public service, not something controlled by private enterprise, and it’s clearly something Republicans simply cannot abide. In fact it is this speech, dissenters claim, which has had an inappropriate amount of influence of the FCC’s latest Net Neutrality proposal, given that the FCC derives its authority from Congress and not from the White House.

“The American people are being misled about President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet,” Pai said in a press conference, suggesting that the White House exerted far too much influence over the agency in this process. This latest opposition joins a seemingly unending stream of rhetoric and fear-mongering since the President publicly addressed this issue late last year, with some going as far as to label this latest Net Neutrality proposal as “Obamacare for the Internet.”

For his part FCC Chairman Wheeler has never denied that he has considered the President’s recommendations, but as his staff clarified in a statement on Tuesday, his wasn’t the only voice in Wheeler’s ear. “Chairman Wheeler welcomed the president’s point of view, as he welcomed the millions of Americans who made their views known,” a spokesman for the FCC said in an email. “After a yearlong process, Chairman Wheeler put forward a proposal that uses every tool in the toolbox to make sure the Internet stays fast, fair, and open for all Americans.”

For his part Wheeler has attempted to assuage the fears of Republicans and the broadband industry alike, noting that Title II rules will be amended to fit the 21st century. Of course Republicans are balking at such assurances, making the most of this final opportunity to scare the American public away from the helpful and most assuredly necessary Open Internet standards the FCC will vote on later this month.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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