Net Neutrality Supporters Protest Outside FCC Chairman’s House
Ajit Pai slammed activists for “harassing” his family over net neutrality, and said they had “crossed the line.”
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai is facing backlash for his proposal to overturn Barack Obama administration’s net neutrality laws. Activists protested outside Pai’s home in Virginia on Nov. 27 and even displayed signs directed at his children. Pai lashed out at the activists for “harassing” his family, saying they had “crossed the line.”
Pai’s proposal seeks to dismantle net neutrality, under which all websites are treated equally by Internet providers, and give big internet providers the power to determine which website should have faster reach to subscribers than others.
The activists who were protesting outside his house reportedly also sent pizzas to his house every 15 minutes to half an hour. Signboards and placards directed at his children were also put up. One poster read: “Is this really the world you want Annabelle and Alexander to inherit? How will they ever look you in the eye again,” while another poster said, “They will come to know the truth. Dad murdered democracy in cold blood. And for what? It’s not too late for you Chairman Pai. You do not have to be evil.”
This is perhaps the first such incident where a senior Indian American administrative official is facing harassment by opponents for his policy outside his house.
In response to the incident, Pai said in an interview to Fox and Friends: “I understand that people are passionate about policy, but the one thing in America that should remain sacred is that families, wives and kids, should remain out of it. And stop harassing us at our homes.”
He added that the opponents of the policy “crossed a line” and that the protest was “nerve-wracking, especially for my wife.”
In a statement published by the Washington Post, he said: “Internet regulation activists have crossed the line by threatening and harassing my family. They should leave my family out of this and focus on debating the merits of the issue.
“That’s one of the things I think is very unfortunate about all the vitriol and hot air that’s out there is that if you keep going out there and peddling this misinformation like ‘this is the guy who is going to break the Internet and destroy democracy’, it’s not surprising that some people get alarmed by it.”
The proposal to repeal net neutrality will be on table before FCC for voting on Dec. 14. As the Republicans have five votes against three from the Democratic party, the proposal is set to pass.
Free Press Action, which backs net neutrality, condemned the attack against Pai and his family. “If you are sending racist message to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, mocking his name, heritage or family, we do not want you in this new neutrality fight,” it said.
Brendan Bordelon, a cyber security reporter at National Journal, said: “The racist memes and the hyperbolic social media attacks are bad enough. This is deeply disturbing.”
Meanwhile, Airbnb, Reddit, Shutterstock, Inc, Tumblr, Etsy, Twitter and many small internet companies wrote to the FCC, asking it reverse the course on Nov. 27. Rolling back net neutrality, they said in the letter, “would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovative new ones from even getting off the ground.”