As Trump administration Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai wages war on net neutrality his latest salvo has folks anything but laughing.
Trying to convince people to support his plans for a “free internet”, Pai resorted to an attempt at a humorous video. Pai uploaded it at conservative site The Daily Caller.
Meanwhile, eighteen attorneys general on Wednesday called on the chairman of the FCC to hold off on the upcoming net neutrality vote pending an investigation into fake comments of support for his deregulation plans. This follows an earlier appeal by Republican Congressman Mike Coffman to delay the vote as well. The FCC meeting where a vote is anticipated to occur began at 10:30am EST today.
In a letter, the attorneys general asked Chairman Ajit Pai and the commissioners to
“take immediate action” regarding the fake comments.
While net neutrality proponents consider internet access under current guidelines a "free internet", Pai defines the term differently. Under his version of "free", Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like his former employer Verizon, can charge customers different amounts of money to stream different kinds of content. ISPs can also slow down or eliminate content from certain websites with competing products or to charge those websites higher fees. ISPs are free to charge customers and websites whatever they want or block their internet access.
In his video, Pai pantomimes “all the things” people will still be able to do after he eliminates the Obama era rules, or in his words, "restores internet freedom".
As a way to convince people to get aboard his plan, it’s unconvincing. No one argued that the internet activities would disappear, as Pai seems to suggest. For those customers and companies able to afford the new fees, their internet will remain unchanged. But internet access for those unable to pay will be drastically different.
Attempting to gain support for his changes, which polls show 77% of Americans oppose, Pai included an open comment period. But the comments in support are what the attorneys general (AG) are questioning.
“A careful review of the publicly available information revealed a pattern of fake submissions using the names of real people,” the AG's letter reads.
In fact, there may be over one million fake submissions from across the country. This is akin to identity theft on a massive scale – and theft of someone’s voice in a democracy is particularly concerning.”
Attorneys general from Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont signed the letter. The NY AG also made available the website for Americans to check and report if their identity was used improperly.
The telecom industry, which claims existing regulations threaten to hamper broadband investments and innovation, supports a vote to repeal net neutrality. A move that will greatly increase their profits. Technology companies and consumer advocacy groups loudly protested the repeal effort for months arguing it spells the end of the internet as we know it.
The current net neutrality rules were enacted by the FCC in 2015 under President Obma with overwhelming online support. The intention was to keep the internet open and fair.
Under the rules, ISPs are required to treat all online content the same. They can't speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites or apps, nor can they put their own content at an advantage over rivals.
The public can watch a livestream of today's FCC meeting and possible net neutrality vote here.