FCC chairman Ajit Pai has called his move to repeal net neutrality “a fight that we are going to win,” but that doesn’t mean he’s not getting pushback: Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has just entered a comment into the open record, and it is as clear a takedown of Pai’s position as we’ve seen yet.
You can read the whole thing here, but the most important part of Pelosi’s comment is a refutation of Pai’s core argument that Title II net neutrality rules have hurt broadband investment.
“Consumers should be able to use the internet on the device they want, using the apps and services they want without their internet provider standing in the way,” says Pelosi. “I support the current rules because they are in place to protect consumers, and I oppose your efforts to eliminate them.”
“Charter’s CEO told investors, ‘Title II, it didn’t really hurt us; it hasn’t hurt us.’”
“When these companies speak to their shareholders, they are prohibited under federal securities laws from materially misstating facts,” writes Pelosi. “In December 2015, AT&T’s CEO told investors that the company would ‘deploy more fiber’ in 2016 than it did in 2015, and that Title II would not impede its future business plans. In December 2016, Comcast’s chief financial officer said that that any concerns Comcast had about reclassification were based on ‘the fear of what Title II could have meant, more than what it actually meant.’ Also in December 2016, Charter’s CEO told investors, ‘Title II, it didn’t really hurt us; it hasn’t hurt us.’”
(Ars Technica did a survey of ISP statements to shareholders and found the same thing — what broadband providers say to their investors doesn’t really match the rhetoric coming from Pai or ISP lobbying groups.)
Pelosi also raises the issue of Pai and his team disregarding the enormous volume of comments submitted to the FCC in support of net neutrality.
“I was also dismayed to learn you are likely to disregard the millions of public comments.”
“I was also dismayed to learn you are likely to disregard the millions of public comments filed in the record,” Pelosi write. “The Administrative Procedures Act prohibits the FCC from disregarding comments. You have made confusing statements that you will both give less weight to comments that are not of sufficient quality, and that you will err on the side of including suspicious comments in the agency’s deliberation, even when dozens among a particular batch of comments have sworn that their name and address were used fraudulently. I therefore ask that you clarify your policy on how the agency will consider comments in the record.”
Pelosi’s district covers San Francisco, and she challenges Pai to come hold a public hearing in front of startups and entrepreneurs in that city — most of which depend on net neutrality for unfettered access to their customers.
“Finally, if you believe that online public comments are coming from “astroturf” sources and are of questionable integrity, then you must hear directly from the public in official hearings outside of Washington, DC,” she says. “It would be my pleasure to invite you and your colleagues to hold a Public Hearing in San Francisco to hear from my constituents on this important matter.”
The public comment period on Pai’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is still open, and several major internet companies are holding a Day of Action on July 12th to protest Pai’s decision. But it’s anyone’s guess how Pai will react to all of this.