Dems fightin' words! FCC's net neutrality murder plot torn apart

Illegal, ill-conceived, flawed. You eejit, Ajit

Free speech

But leaving the question of investment aside, the Congressmen attack the proposal from a number of different directions, including freedom of speech.

"The proposal fails to recognize that the internet has become one of the most powerful communications tools in modern society and is home to some of the most important conversations taking place today," the letter notes, arguing that "without the protections afforded by the 2015 net neutrality rules, internet service providers (ISPs) will be subject to economic and political pressures to choke off unpopular conversations or speed up viewpoints supported by the politically dominant."

And it argues that while the FCC says that the rules are damaging small businesses – it is only talking about small businesses that happen to be ISPs. "After mentioning the effects of its actions on small ISPs, the proposal's discussion of small business comes to a screeching stop," the letter notes. "The Commission's proposal makes no effort to recognize how its actions could devastate other small businesses across the country."

Other attack points include an argument that Congress instructed the FCC to consider network infrastructure as a separate issue to the content carried over that infrastructure. The FCC's proposal "impermissibly reads this distinction out of the law," the lawmakers argue – pointing to possible legal challenges down the line.

And then there are the attacks on Ajit Pai as FCC chair. "We are concerned that the FCC has jeopardized its independence by taking its instruction directly from the White House," the letter argues, noting: "Chairman Pai has refused to say whether he was given direction from the President when they met in the Oval Office earlier this year." If he did, the plans are "fatally flawed," the letter argues.

Thanks Obama

It then brings up Pai's own reaction when President Obama posted a video in the lead-up to the net neutrality rules, in which he expressed his preference for legally classifying broadband providers as utilities.

"Chairman Pai often said that President Obama improperly influenced the FCC by releasing a video supporting a path forward for net neutrality and submitting a proper ex parte filing in the docket," the letter notes. "As has been well established, the Chairman's comments were certainly an overstatement, but the potential influence of this White House goes much further. It appears that the President directly ordered Chairman Pai to repeal net neutrality, potentially during a visit to the Oval Office. If true, this proposal clearly violates our intention to create an agency independent of the executive."

The letter is just one of an extraordinary 18 million that have been sent to the FCC in response to its plan, although it's fair to say that not all those 18 million dig into the finer points of telecom policy (even old memes have found their way into it).

And while such a strongly worded letter from so many lawmakers would normally give a federal regulator pause for concern, the most likely impact is that it will drive what has already become a partisan issue further into the swamp of American politics. ®

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