Ajit Pai: Tech Giants Support Net Neutrality Regulation to ‘Cement’ Internet Dominance

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai / Getty Images

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday hit back at tech giants and celebrities who oppose his effort to rescind Obama administration net neutrality regulations.

Pai made his comments at a Washington, D.C event on Tuesday held by the R Street Institute and the Lincoln Network about telecom and internet law, Recode reports. Pai said internet companies such as Twitter staunchly oppose rescinding the regulations because they want to exploit the regulatory environment.

"They might cloak their advocacy in the public interest, but the real interest of these internet giants is in using the regulatory process to cement their dominance in the internet economy," Pai said.

The Obama-era regulations were first implemented in February of 2015, and the Trump administration voted to begin reversing the rules in May, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

The Obama-era Title II rules classified Internet service providers as utilities, instead of information services, for the first time in history. The rules subjected ISPs to broad government regulation and rules for how companies can manage traffic over their own networks.

Pai said Internet companies have told the commission the rules are "heavy-handed" and "rife with uncertainty."

Pai said on Tuesday that companies are not to blame for wanting regulations favorable toward them, but said he did not want the FCC to show favoritism toward certain tech companies over others.

"I don’t blame them for trying," Pai said. "But the government shouldn’t aid and abet this effort."

The chairman said the 2015 rules are "heavy handed," and he considers their elimination to be a way of bringing broadband investment to the United States. He also argued companies such as Twitter discriminate according to their own biases, and gave the example of Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R., Tenn.) Senate campaign ad being pulled over complaints her statements about abortion were "inflammatory." (Twitter later reversed the decision.)

"Now look: I love Twitter," Pai said. "But let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to a free and open internet, Twitter is a part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate."

"And unfortunately, Twitter is not an outlier," Pai added. "Indeed, despite all the talk, and all the fear, that broadband providers could decide what internet content consumers can see, recent experience shows that so-called edge providers are in fact deciding what content they see. These providers routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like."

Pai also rebuked "Hollywood celebrities, whose large online followings give them out-sized influence in shaping the public debate." One of his targets was musical artist Cher, who last week said repealing net neutrality regulations would be an affront to inclusion.

Pai countered that the changes would "expand broadband networks and bring high-speed internet access to more Americans, not fewer."