WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will unveil his plan to undermine open internet protections during an invitation-only speech sponsored by FreedomWorks, a right-wing activist group funded in part by contributions from major phone and cable companies and their trade groups.
According to media reports, President Trump’s FCC appointee will seek to launch a proceeding to dismantle the legal framework essential to maintaining Net Neutrality. The FCC's landmark 2015 Open Internet Order rests on the laws in Title II of the Communications Act, the statute that governs the FCC and sets out the basic obligations for carriers that provide internet access. Pai reportedly will try to replace the FCC’s rules with voluntary agreements by internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that have a long history of undermining the open internet.
The public was not invited to attend Pai’s speech, which will take place at the Newseum, but Free Press will be outside the venue to provide information that highlights the many falsehoods in previous Pai statements about Net Neutrality. Chief among these lies is Pai’s claim that “broadband investment remains lower today than it was when the FCC changed course in 2015.”
According to publicly available Securities and Exchange Commission filings, overall investment by the nation’s publicly traded internet service providers is up 5 percent in the two-year period since the FCC ruling, compared to their investment over the two years prior to the vote. Individual ISPs like Comcast spent 26 percent more on capital expenditures in that time period than in the two years prior. Cable-company core network investments are up almost 50 percent in that two-year period. This figure includes new deployment and upgrades to networks but doesn’t count additional expenditures on infrastructure like cable boxes, cable modems, service trucks and buildings.
Free Press distributed the following fliers to people as they entered the event:
— Free Press Extra: Fake News at the Newseum
— ISP Capital Expenditures: 2013–2016
— In Their Own Words: ISP Statements to Investors About Title II’s Lack of Harmful Impacts
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
“Ever since Chairman Pai declared that he would take an evidence-based approach to policymaking, he and his allies in the phone and cable lobby have been desperately casting about in search of evidence that supports their anti-Title II ideology. The fact is that there is none.
“Pai knows this but has surrounded himself with political hardliners and alternative facts to wish away the truth about Net Neutrality.
“Pai’s tirades against Title II have led him to ignore not only the successes of the broadband market in the two years since the FCC’s vote, but also the historic investment and competition happening on the open internet. Aggregate investments by publicly traded ISPs are up by more than 5 percent since the order came down. Companies large and small have rapidly deployed next-generation gigabit services in record time, and internet users are benefiting from these new capacities.
“The industry’s actual investments and deployments, as well as its executives’ own statements to investors on how the rules haven’t harmed their businesses in the slightest, are more informative than Pai’s ideology-driven fantasies.
“The FCC’s 2015 decision is working as intended. Carriers have clarity about their legal obligations, and the businesses and people using broadband services to communicate with each other, conduct commerce, fight for justice and access diverse media sources do so knowing that carriers will transmit their data without unreasonable discrimination. And as that 2015 Net Neutrality decision showed, people can organize to challenge the country’s most powerful companies — and win.
“We need all those people — and millions more — to speak up now to defend these fundamental protections as they come under attack during the Trump presidency.”