Ajit Pai Faces Backlash From Indian American Lawmakers Over Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal has been criticized by Congresspersons Ro Khanna, Tulsi Gabbard and Pramila Jayapal, among others.


Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has come under attack from several Indian American lawmakers for his proposal to repeal the net neutrality policy. Pai’s proposal to withdraw the Obama-era policy, which stipulated that all websites would have to be treated equally by Internet providers, also prompted activists to protest against the move outside his house.

A war of words has also started between him and Ro Khanna, the Indian American Congressman from Silicon Valley.

Khanna tweeted: “We need stronger net neutrality laws that ban most forms of zero rating instead of weakening these laws!”, and retweeted an article from the Los Angeles Times that said, “In Portugal, with no net neutrality, Internet providers are starting to split the net into packages.”

According to Khanna, the FCC is giving major corporations “even more control over the media, paving the way for megamergers like Sinclair-Tribune.”

He added: “We have to fight for less consolidation to save our democracy.”

Pai responded to the attack, saying: “In addition to making the false assertion that Portugal has no net neutrality, Congressman Khanna is pointing to an example that has nothing to do with net neutrality.”

Senator Kamala Harris has also opposed the proposal, saying: “Our message has been clear: broadband providers must not be allowed to tilt the playing field by blocking or throttling their competitors, prioritizing their offerings, or otherwise unreasonably interfering with lawful content.”

According to Harris, more than 7,00,000 Californians and over eight million Americans have submitted comments in response to the FCC’s “misguided” proposal. She added that repealing net neutrality would be a terrible mistake as it would hurt the most vulnerable and voiceless people of the United States. “It will imperil our economy while reducing innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity,” she said in an email to her supporters that was posted on medium.com.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said that dismantling net neutrality would mean denying the most fundamental First Amendment rights to many sections of America’s population. “Net neutrality protections ensure that the Internet remains open, fair, and equal for everyone. By dismantling these protections, would mean we turn our backs on the most fundamental First Amendment rights of our students, entrepreneurs, innovators, small businesses, and working families, and all who rely on an open Internet to level the playing field of opportunity,” she said, PTI reported. “The FCC must fulfill their responsibility to all Americans, not just big Internet Service Providers (ISPs),” Gabbard added.

The move also saw opposition from Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who said, “Those with more money will get faster Internet service, or be able to access more of the Internet. Competition among new streaming services and content providers will be severely damaged. And we, the consumers, will pay for it.”

The FCC chairman, on the other hand, targeted Twitter by saying: “Let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to a free and open Internet, Twitter is a part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.”

To illustrate his point, he describes an instance where Twitter had refused to let Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn advertise a campaign video with an anti-abortion message, Reuters reported.

A spokesperson for Twitter responded to Pai’s statements by saying that at no time was Blackburn’s video censored and that her followers would still be able to see it. “Because advertisements are served to users who do not necessarily follow an account, we therefore have higher standards for their content,” the Twitter spokesperson added.

Pai’s proposal against net neutrality will be put on the FCC table on Dec.14. The move is expected to get passed as the Republicans have five votes against three from the Democratic Party.

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