Amidst a changing global political landscape, the controversial head of the US Federal Communications Commission is taking his pro-business message to a worldwide stage.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is slated to present a keynote speech in Berlin on October 26 at the Broadband World Forum, which runs from October 24-26. His presentation will come only weeks after Germany's far-right AfD entered the country's parliament as the third-largest party and about 15 months after the UK's Brexit vote.
Selected by President Donald Trump in January 2017, Pai advocates a rollback of Title II, the February 2015 FCC reclassification of fixed and mobile Internet providers. Under Title II, the FCC prevents ISPs from throttling, blocking or prioritizing web traffic for fees, treating all web services equally.
Pai and many of his Republican colleagues argue that ISPs, including cable and telco service providers, served consumers well under the so-called "light touch" regulation of then-president Bill Clinton. By classifying broadband as a Title I information service, providers would invest more in this technology, Pai argued.
But opponents disagree and both sides point to alternate "facts" to bolster their opinions. Title II cost the US $5.1 billion in "broadband capital investment," said Pai, citing the Free State Foundation, according to Ars Technica. That led to the loss of up to 100,000 jobs, he added in a blog post.
Not so fast, argued Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who voted to keep Title II. Broadband providers invested $87 billion since 2015, he said, the highest capex rate in ten years.
Although the FCC invited public comment, the site crashed after comedian John Oliver's segment about net neutrality. The agency denied Oliver's viewers had anything to do with the outage, claiming it was a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack.
Governments around the world treat broadband and access with varying degrees of control, ranging from authoritarian regimes that prevent residents from any access, to countries such as Australia, which is in the process of deploying a nationwide broadband infrastructure.
It will be interesting to see how Pai addresses what will largely be an international audience, how he pitches his regulatory philosophy, who's listening to Pai's speech, to whom he listens after the presentation, or if there's a virtual outage between the FCC chair and those who advocate for strong net neutrality laws.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.