The public is “being misled” over Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality proposal, according to Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
“It is worse than I imagined,” Pai said during a press conference Tuesday in which he highlighted key aspects of the proposal, which won’t be released to the public until after the agency votes on it later this month. “The American people are being misled about President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet.”
Pai first announced his opposition to the plan — which seeks to regulate Internet service providers under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act and ban them from establishing tiered lanes of service — late last week, when he pointed out the plan’s identical nature to the net neutrality proposal put forth by the White House last November. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioner Slams ‘Obama’s 332-Page Plan To Regulate The Internet’)
In a fact sheet distributed by Pai’s office Tuesday, the commissioner said the plan has the potential to eliminate popular consumer benefits like uncapped data plans and “contemplates” establishing billions in new taxes on broadband, “including fees to support the multi-billion-dollar Universal Service Fund and the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund.”
“These taxes will increase the prices American consumers will have to pay for broadband,” Pai’s office wrote.
According to Pai the way the plan tackles “usage-based pricing” means consumers using less data could end up paying to subsidize consumers who use more, and explicitly states “all rates charged by broadband providers will be subject to FCC regulation” based on “just and reasonable” criteria. The requirement will apply to both consumers and content creators like Netflix, Google YouTube, Amazon, etc.
“The claim that President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet does not include rate regulation is flat-out false,” Pai said Tuesday. “The plan clearly states that the FCC can regulate the rates that Internet service providers charge for broadband Internet access, for interconnection, for transit — in short, for the core aspects of Internet services.”
The plan also opens up broadband providers to legal suit by individuals and class-action groups for any practices “they believe to be unreasonable.” According to Pai, the cost of such litigation will be passed on to consumers.
“Some of the plan’s new Internet regulations will go into effect immediately,” the fact sheet reads. “Others will not take effect at this time or for now, making clear that the president’s plan contemplates even more rules in the future. This undermines regulatory certainty and will leave consumers poorer, step by step.”
Pai also repeated his criticisms that anti-monopoly authority touted by Obama and proposed by Wheeler will reduce competition, consumer choice and market innovation, slowing the growth pace of implementing faster broadband networks and technologies.
“In the end, when you compare what the American public is being told about President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet with the actual text of that plan, these and other discrepancies become apparent,” Pai said. “That makes it all the more important for the FCC to let the American public see the plan before the FCC makes it the law.”
Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller is trying to force the agency to do just that with a recently proposed piece of legislation — The Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act, which would force the independent agency to publicly release new regulations prior to voting on their implementation.
“In amending the rules, the public will know exactly what the FCC is voting on well before the vote,” Heller said in press release announcing the bill Tuesday. “Right now, we don’t even know what major decision like the FCC’s net neutrality order says. How is that an example of solid rulemaking?”