Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Ajit Pai said over the weekend that he foresees a future in which federal regulators will seek to regulate websites based on political content, using the power of the FCC or Federal Elections Commission (FEC). He also revealed that his opposition to “net neutrality” regulations had resulted in personal harassment and threats to his family.
Speaking on a panel at the annual “Right Online” conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Pai told audience members, “I can tell you it has not been an easy couple of months personally. My address has been publicly released. My wife’s name, my kids’ names, my kids’ birthdays, my phone number, all kinds of threats [have come] online.” …
The rules, which are set to take effect on June 12, reclassify Internet providers as utilities and command them not to block or “throttle” online traffic.
However, Pai said it was only the beginning. In the future, he said, “I could easily see this migrating over to the direction of content… What you’re seeing now is an impulse not just to regulate the roads over which traffic goes, but the traffic itself.”
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Continuing, he said, “It is conceivable to me to see the government saying, ‘We think the Drudge Report is having a disproportionate effect on our political discourse. He doesn’t have to file anything with the FEC. The FCC doesn’t have the ability to regulate anything he says, and we want to start tamping down on websites like that.’” …
The reclassification of Internet providers as utilities allows the FCC to impose what is known as a “Universal Service Fund” (USF) tax on their revenue. …
Pai said that proposals to expand certain programs funded by the USF could cost billions. “We should stop making promises in terms of expanding the Lifeline program, expanding the E-Rate program that need to be paid for. …”
Lifeline, commonly known as the “Obama Phone” program, subsidizes phone usage for low-income individuals. E-Rate subsidizes broadband access for schools and libraries.
Continuing, Pai said, “Broadband service is a lot more expensive than phone service. Right now, the Lifeline phone subsidy is only $9.95. Imagine how expensive it’s going to have to be to really subsidize people’s broadband service.”