FCC Chairman Still Receiving Threats Over ‘Net Neutrality’
As Ajit Pai liberates the Internet, his family still requires 24-hour protection.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifies before the House Appropriations Committee in April. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images
By James Freeman
Updated June 11, 2018 6:49 p.m. ET
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai tends to dress down when he travels and often wears a hat to obscure his appearance. That’s because of the vitriol directed at him for reducing Washington’s control over the Internet.
On a visit to the Journal today, Mr. Pai wore a suit and tie and maintained his usual cheerful demeanor. But he also reported that the threats against him and his family did not end with the Commission’s December vote to restore the freedom that existed for the Internet’s entire history until 2015.
He notes that his in-laws have received angry phone calls at 3 a.m. at home and that his wife has received threatening phone calls at work. The threats come via various media and have included references to slitting the throats of his children.
Today is the expiration date Mr. Pai and his colleagues placed on the 2015 Obama administration rule that applied century-old utility regulation to the Internet. By imposing rules once reserved for the Bell telephone monopoly, the Obama FCC managed to do what had never been done before outside of recessions: reduce the annual amount of money Internet service providers invest in their networks.
This obviously didn’t bode well for customers hoping for fast and reliable service in the future. But Silicon Valley companies like Netflix and Alphabet (owner of YouTube and Google) wanted government to prevent a network operator like AT&T from charging market rates for carrying their enormous video traffic around the Internet.
The fact that the Silicon Valley giants won the lobbying battle within the Obama administration is perhaps not surprising. What has been remarkable is the way that Silicon Valley and its dominant social media companies have managed to sell so many people on the preposterous notion that the survival of the Internet hinges on a rule that didn’t even exist until three years ago—and is antithetical to the regulatory restraint that allowed the Internet to flourish in the first place.
Mr. Pai has heard all of the overheated claims that he is causing “the end of the Internet as we know it.” Now that today has arrived and there is no disaster, his critics will have to live with their unhinged commentary. “We’re going to remind people” of their absurd apocalyptic forecasts, he says.
In the meantime, his family still requires 24-hour security. And all people are reminded of how much power the giants of Silicon Valley exercise in shaping public opinion.
Trump and Trade
Here’s an excerpt from the official White House transcript of President Trump’s Saturday press conference in Charlevoix, Canada :
Q Mr. President, you said that this was a positive meeting, but from the outside, it seemed quite contentious. Did you get any indication from your interlocutors that they were going to make any concessions to you? And I believe that you raised the idea of a tariff-free G7. Is that —
THE PRESIDENT: I did. Oh, I did. That’s the way it should be. No tariffs, no barriers. That’s the way it should be.
Q How did it go down?
THE PRESIDENT: And no subsidies. I even said no tariffs. In other words, let’s say Canada — where we have tremendous tariffs — the United States pays tremendous tariffs on dairy. As an example, 270 percent. Nobody knows that. We pay nothing. We don’t want to pay anything. Why should we pay?
We have to — ultimately, that’s what you want. You want a tariff-free [sic], you want no barriers, and you want no subsidies, because you have some cases where countries are subsidizing industries, and that’s not fair. So you go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy-free. That’s the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance. I mean, that would be the ultimate thing…
…In fact, Larry Kudlow is a great expert on this, and he’s a total free trader. But even Larry has seen the ravages of what they’ve done with their tariffs. Would you like to say something, Larry, very quickly? It might be interesting.
MR. KUDLOW: One interesting point, in terms of the G7 group meeting — I don’t know if they were surprised with President Trump’s free-trade proclamation, but they certainly listened to it and we had lengthy discussions about that. As the President said, reduce these barriers. In fact, go to zero. Zero tariffs. Zero non-tariff barriers. Zero subsidies.