FCC's Pai Declares California's Net Neutrality Law Illegal
During a keynote speech to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai called California's Net Neutrality bill "illegal."
In his presentation to the conservative political group, Pai referred often to The Shawshank Redemption, a movie set in a make-believe prison in the real nearby town of Buxton (although mostly filmed in Ohio). He began by discussing recent FCC moves to reduce the digital divide in rural regions like many parts of Maine. He then transitioned into steps taken to simplify broadband deployments -- such as one-touch-make-ready -- before segueing into light-touch rules (and those who oppose this approach in preference of 2015's regulations, including Net Neutrality).
Here's what Pai said:
Of course, those who demand greater government control of the Internet haven't given up. Their latest tactic is pushing state governments to regulate the Internet. The most egregious example of this comes from California. Last month, the California state legislature passed a radical, anti-consumer Internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015. In a way, I can understand how they succumbed to the temptation to regulate. After all, I suppose a broadband pipe might look to some like a plastic straw.
If this law is signed by the governor, what would it do? Among other things, it would prevent Californian consumers from buying many free-data plans. These plans allow consumers to stream video, music and the like exempt from any data limits. They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace, especially among lower-income Americans. But nanny-state California legislators apparently want to ban their constituents from having this choice. They have met the enemy, and it is free data.
The broader problem is that California's micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country. After all, broadband is an interstate service; Internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines. It follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area. For if individual states like California regulate the Internet, this will directly impact citizens in other states.
Among other reasons, this is why efforts like California's are illegal. In fact, just last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reaffirmed the well-established law that state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law. Last December, the FCC made clear that broadband is just such an information service.
(Source: Shamrock Recruiting)
(Home page image source: FCC, from Ajit Pai's trip to Charlotte, NC in June, 2018)
So let me be clear: The Internet should be run by engineers, entrepreneurs, and technologists, not lawyers, bureaucrats, and politicians. That's what we decided in 2017, and we're going to fight to make sure it stays that way.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.
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