Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer who now runs the FCC, successfully ram-rodded a repeal of net neutrality rules from the FCC last fall. In doing so, Pai left the Commission virtually powerless to regulate telecoms companies, handing a huge victory to cable and phone companies who’d rather not have to compete.
But rather than being happy with his victory, Pai is still finding time to talk to sympathetic industry audiences about how everything that’s wrong with the internet can easily be blamed on net neutrality.
At a speech to industry body the American Cable Association yesterday, Pai dwelled on the lack of high-speed internet in rural communities, a very real and serious problem facing communities. Pai’s FCC has rolled back several provisions meant to protect internet access for low-income and rural citizens, undoing a rule that would force providers to at least maintain existing DSL internet lines, and axing a subsidy for wireless service for low-income residents.
Instead, Pai blamed the 2015 Title II order — better known as the net neutrality rules he just repealed — for the lack of rural connectivity. “Overregulation is a major threat to investment,” Pai told members, “nd there was no better example of overregulation than the FCC’s 2015 Title II Order. This regulatory misadventure resulted in 1930s utility-style regulation being imposed on your businesses. Why such a rush to cram down heavy-handed regulation? The mindset is exemplified by this claim from one politician: “Cable companies panicked at [the Internet’s] threat to their business, so they monopolized Internet connectivity themselves.”
“Money that could have expanded networks was now being siphoned off to pay lawyers and consultants to make sense of the new rules. Resources were spent developing plans to minimize the risk of enforcement actions. Some of you even started setting money aside for litigation reserves. We’re talking about time, money, and lawyers that your companies can’t easily afford.”
For the record, studies have shown that net neutrality laws had no effect on the rate of investment by telecoms companies. Comcast invested 13% more than the year before in the first year of net neutrality laws, and 6% more than that the year after. The one area net neutrality did cause costs to balloon was lobbyists, as one study found that the three largest telecoms companies spent $26.3 million lobbying for net neutrality repeal in 2017.