Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at MWC

Nathan Ingraham, Engadget:

New FCC chairman Ajit Pai has made his views on net neutrality clear in the past: He’s against it. But today at Mobile World Congress, Pai gave a wide-ranging speech in which he made his most pointed comments against net neutrality since taking over as chairman. When discussing the rules put into place in early 2015, Pai said they were “a mistake” and praised “light touch” internet regulation — something that’s sure to be on the FCC’s agenda going forward.


But Pai continues to paint a picture of net neutrality rules that classify the internet as a utility as a backwards approach. “Rules developed to tame a 1930s monopoly were imported into the 21st century to regulate the internet,” Pai said while also calling the net neutrality ruling a “last-century” bit of regulation. It’s still early days for Pai’s leadership over the FCC, but it sounds like it won’t be long before we find out how he plans to roll back the protections put in place in 2015.

Notice the subtle rhetorical trick Pai played here. He frames the rules as “regulating the internet”, not “regulating internet service providers”. Regulating the internet itself is perceived as a blanket Very Bad Thing; regulating internet service providers — which is what the 2015 rules actually do — is not.

The other thing he argues — and this is common amongst those who disagree with regulating ISPs as common carriers — is that it’s somehow wrong to regulate the web based on rules written decades ago. This is a poor argument, as it relies exclusively on the age and not the substance of those regulations.

This is important for people to keep an eye on, and not just in the United States. Because most large web companies are American and because so much of the web’s infrastructure runs through the United States, the decisions that this FCC chairman makes will affect the rest of the world as well.