California is potentially weeks away from signing into law the strictest net neutrality regulations in the country. Telecoms, having bought the FCC, are freaking out because they are now facing considerably more comprehensive consumer protections in California than they were before they were able to get former Verizon lawyer and current telecom shill FCC chair Ajit Pai to let them write all of the rules—or not, as the case may be. On Friday, Pai was speaking to folks at the Maine Heritage Policy Center when he had this to say about California:
Of course, those who demand greater government control of the Internet haven’t given up. Their latest tactic is pushing state governments to regulate the Internet. The most egregious example of this comes from California. Last month, the California state legislature passed a radical, anti-consumer Internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015. In a way, I can understand how they succumbed to the temptation to regulate. After all, I suppose a broadband pipe might look to some like a plastic straw.
The broader problem is that California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country. After all, broadband is an interstate service; Internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines. It follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area. For if individual states like California regulate the Internet, this will directly impact citizens in other states.
He’s right. It potentially will make other states sit up and say, Yeah, I don’t want to continue to get screwed by telecoms with terrible customer service and virtual monopolies. Pai also needed to keep up the illusion that he’s still some kind of a law mind, and not simply a living marionette, so he threw this bit of mythology in.
Among other reasons, this is why efforts like California’s are illegal. In fact, just last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reaffirmed the well-established law that state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law. Last December, the FCC made clear that broadband is just such an information service.
Last week I wrote about how Pai had lied using this very same case. The Minnesota case in question concerned Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The judge in that case decided that Minnesota couldn’t create state regulations on VoIP because the FCC had never determined whether or not it was an “information service,” and thereby had left that distinction up to the courts. In the case of California’s and other states’ attempts to create consumer protections for broadband service, proponents argue that the FCC has completely abandoned its position as a regulatory body.
California Rep. Scott Wiener responded to Pai’s bullshit by saying the FCC chair had “abdicated his responsibility,” forcing democratically elected representatives like Wiener to work to insure an open internet—in spite of Pai.
"Unlike Pai's FCC, California isn't run by the big telecom and cable companies," Wiener also said. "Pai can take whatever potshots at California he wants. The reality is that California is the world's innovation capital, and unlike the crony capitalism promoted by the Trump administration, California understands exactly what it takes to foster an open innovation economy with a level playing field."
Pai is no stranger to lying outright about laws and reality, having already spent the better part of two years pretending that a DDOS attack on the FCC’s servers made it impossible to take into account the potentially millions of citizens who voiced their displeasure with Pai’s decision to do away with net neutrality consumer protections. Wiener’s statement calling Pai’s decision-making “crony capitalism” isn’t hyperbole—just ask his choice for “broadband adviser,” Elizabeth Ann Pierce, a telecom tool who’s been charged with fraud. As Wiener pointed out, Pai’s silence regarding his former company’s disgraceful up-selling and throttling of services to California firefighters during a wildfire emergency last month says a lot more than the garbage coming out when his lips are moving.