US: Ajit Pai under fire for his stand on net neutrality

Posted By: PTI
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 Washington, Nov 28: For his proposal to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality policy, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has come under a blistering attack of several Indian-American lawmakers.

Image for representation only

Pai is facing backlash for his proposal which seeks to reverse Obama-era net neutrality, which meant that all websites are treated equally by Internet providers. Pai's proposal would end that net neutrality and give big Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon broad powers to determine what website should reach out to subscribers faster than others.

The controversial proposal triggered a war of words between Pai (44) and first-term Indian-American Congressman from Silicon Valley Ro Khanna. Khanna in a tweet said, "We need stronger net neutrality laws that ban most forms of zero rating instead of weakening these laws!", as he retweeted an article from the Los Angeles Times according to which "in Portugal, with no net neutrality, Internet providers are starting to split the net into packages".

He said The FCC is giving major corporations "even more control over the media, paving the way for megamergers like Sinclair-Tribune".

"We have to fight for less consolidation to save our democracy," he added.

Pai reacted sharply, saying that Khanna was making a false accusation. "In addition to making the false assertion that Portugal has no net neutrality, Congressman Khanna is pointing to an example that has nothing to do with net neutrality," he said.

Senator Kamala Harris said more than 7,00,000 Californians — and more than 8 million Americans — have already submitted comments in response to the FCC's "misguided" proposal.

"Our message has been clear: broadband providers must not be allowed to tilt the playing field by blocking or throttling their competitors, prioritising their offerings, or otherwise unreasonably interfering with lawful content," she said.

The FCC, Harris alleged, wants to do is empower broadband service providers — the gatekeepers of the Internet — to potentially distort the online marketplace and set up a pay- for-play system.

"This would be a terrible mistake that would hurt the most vulnerable and voiceless among us. It will imperil our economy while reducing innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity," she said in an email to her supporters.

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker, alleged that Pai and the FCC were rewarding "pay-to-play politics", ensuring that those with money have a seat at the table and shutting out everyone else.

"Net neutrality protections ensure that the Internet remains open, fair, and equal for everyone. By dismantling these protections, we turn our backs on the most fundamental First Amendment rights of our students, entrepreneurs, innovators, small businesses, and working families, and all who rely on an open Internet to level the playing field of opportunity," she said.

"The FCC must fulfill their responsibility to all Americans, not just big Internet Service Providers (ISPs)," Gabbard said. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said with dismantling of net neutrality rules, the competition among new streaming services and content providers will be severely damaged.

"If these rules are repealed, your ISP will be able to charge you more to access certain content. Those with more money will get faster Internet service, or be able to access more of the Internet. Competition among new streaming services and content providers will be severely damaged. And we, the consumers, will pay for it," she said.

Jayapal said, "The large corporations will have a freehand to charge discriminatory rates to benefit themselves, and limit the free speech and access of their consumers." Pai's proposal to dismantle net neutrality is scheduled to come out to vote before the FCC on December 14. This is expected to pass as the Republicans have five votes as against three from the Democratic Party.

PTI

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