On Wednesday, Ajit Pai, the boss of America's broadband watchdog, decided to reopen the decade-long debate over net neutrality, despite rules having been finally decided back in 2015 and held up by the court last year.
FCC chairman Pai decided that rather than walk through the problems with the current rules and argue for changes, he would embark on a partisan rant, paint the issue's many components in black-and-white terms, abuse advocates of the current system and repeatedly blow a dog-whistle for President Trump's ears (trump-whistle?)
As BuzzFeed would say: you'll never guess what happened next.
"Today, FCC chairman announced a dramatic step in the wrong direction for the future of the internet with his plans to unravel net neutrality," tweeted the Democrat's most senior senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
His counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY): "I commend Chairman Pai for taking bold action today to turn back this portion of the Obama administration's eight-year regulatory assault on all aspects of our economy."
Creator of the worldwide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee: "When I invented the web, I didn't have to ask anyone for permission, and neither did America's successful internet entrepreneurs ... The FCC's announcements today suggest they want to step back and allow concentrated market players to pick winners and losers online. Their talk is all about getting more people connected, but what is the point if your ISP only lets you watch the movies they choose, just like the old days of cable?"
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF): "Chairman Pai's plans are undoubtedly in the right direction ... The months ahead will be a slog, with all the hyperbole and misinformation from activists who want to see the Internet provided as a heavily regulated public utility ... let's set aside the absurd 'sky is falling' theatrics and work towards real solutions."
On the one hand, screw you; on the other...
Pro-freedom group Public Knowledge: "This proposal is Washington policymaking at its worst – an alignment of government regulators with dominant industry interests. And it's particularly unfortunate to hear the Chairman of the FCC deploy fact-free rhetoric about supposed 'government control over the internet' – a baseless distortion of the actual issues at stake in this debate."
The Free State Foundation think tank: "Acting under the authority of the amorphous 'good conduct' rule, previous FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler declared war on wireless providers' popular free data programs. Thankfully, one of Chairman Ajit Pai's first actions was to end this war."
Campaign group Free Press: "It's official: Trump and Pai plan to destroy net neutrality ... if it succeeds, the internet as we know it will be gone for good."
The International Center for Law and Economics – a non-profit "non-partisan research center" (no sniggering at the back): "By questioning the unprecedented and ill-supported expansion of FCC authority that undergirds the Order, Chairman Pai has taken a crucial step toward re-imposing economic rigor and the rule of law at the FCC."
Senator Al Franken (D-MN): "Let me be very clear: getting rid of net neutrality would destroy the internet as we know it. I plan to fight Chairman Pai's proposal – and the big cable and internet companies who are the real muscle behind this attack – every step of the way."
People of the internet – save us
We have been trying to find someone – anyone – who doesn't think it's the best thing in the world or the worst disaster to befall society. So far, nothing. If you do spot one, let us know.
But of course, none of this extreme positioning has impacted ordinary internet users who, on the whole, are a very sensible bunch who think that this may be an opportunity to improve and clarify the current situation. Yeah, right.
"Ajit Pai is a hero and patriot. He's fought for less government interference his entire time at the FCC, and it wasn't easy during the Obama admin. Obama-appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wanted total government control," said someone called Carol Davis, in a comment on a FreedomWorks video about Pai's latest move.
"What I am learning from this event: lots of wealthy, white, Beltway-insiders who directly receive, or work at orgs who receive, money from ISPs, want to control our internet experiences," suggests Jessica Gonzalez.
Yep, this is going to be a goat rodeo. ®
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