FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims California’s tough pending net neutrality law is, itself, illegal, and a California state senator has slammed Pai and the Trump administration in return.
Several states have passed laws enshrining the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally following the FCC’s decision under Pai’s leadership to abandon that principle, called net neutrality. Pai argued in a recent speech that, because the Internet crosses state lines, only the federal government can regulate it.
“In a way, I can understand how they succumbed to the temptation to regulate,” Pai said in a speech at the Maine Heritage Policy Center. “After all, I suppose a broadband pipe might look to some like a plastic straw.”
Pai’s speech drew a sharp response from California Senator Scott Wiener, according to Gizmodo.
“Pai can take whatever potshots at California he wants. The reality is that California is the world’s innovation capital, and unlike the crony capitalism promoted by the Trump Administration, California understands exactly what it takes to foster an open innovation economy with a level playing field,” said Wiener.
Pai’s attack, delivered during a New England tour, echoed a number of talking points previously pushed by telecom industry lobbyists working to crush S.B. 822 on behalf of AT&T and other major internet service providers (ISPs). Some of his rhetoric mischaracterized central provisions of Wiener’s bill.
Pai alleged, for instance, that S.B. 822 would “prevent Californian consumers from buying many free-data plans,” suggesting that California legislators, such as Wiener, are attempting to “ban their constituents” from gaining access to so-called “zero-rating” incentives that allow consumers to stream music and video online without impacting ISP-enforced data limits…
However, Wiener’s bill does not actually prohibit ISPs from offering these kinds of incentives.
Pai’s position on net neutrality regulations’ legality has also been met with skepticism by consumer advocates and legal scholars.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
“The FCC has said, ‘We’re washing our hands’” of responsibility for regulating internet providers’ behavior, said Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy who was a top FCC official when the net-neutrality rules were adopted. “You can’t wash your hands, and then say the states can’t” regulate, she added.