On January 20, 2021, Aji Pai’s tenure as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission finally ended. Pai was easily the worst FCC chairperson in history, so his departure is cause for celebration. Now, I don’t know how much President Joe Biden or his choice for FCC chair will do to mitigate all the damage that Pai did while holding that position, but I have a few ideas.
What Did Ajit Pai Do as FCC Chairman?
A few years ago, I listed some of the things that Pai did as FCC Chairman to help corporations — namely cable companies and internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon, the latter of which Pai worked for as a lawyer. Vice, which has written around 150 articles on Pai, has a longer list of Pai’s misdeeds, including:
- Pai’s decision to gut net neutrality.
- His dismissal of legitimate complaints and citizen pleas during the commenting period before his December 17, 2017, decision on net neutrality.
- His allowance of astroturfing during that commenting period.
- Pai’s attempt to fake a denial of service attack on the FCC’s website in relation to those comments.
- Pai’s failure to “bridge the digital divide,” i.e. expand broadband access to underserved communities across the United States.
I think Vice’s latest Pai article left out the fact that he attempted to preempt states from enacting their own net neutrality laws. That provision of Pai’s order was struck down in court, paving the way for states to create strong protections for ISP customers.
In short, Ajit Pai was/is a corporate shill and that is the way in which he ran the freaking FCC.
What Can Be Done to Restore Net Neutrality?
I am not sure about all the legalities, but Biden’s FCC chairperson — which might be Jessica Rosenworcel — may try to restore the order that makes net neutrality the national policy. Either way, not having that as a law makes it vulnerable to attacks from the next president, if that person is a Republican.
Regardless of what happens at the national level, these are things that should happen at the state and local level to help internet users:
- All 50 states should enact strong net neutrality laws. California’s law is the gold standard, and I think other states who have no NN laws on the books yet should follow suit.
- Cities must establish municipal broadband. This will give customers a cheap alternative to corporate ISPs and force those companies to offer competitive prices.
- States must invest in broadband expansion to allow people in underserved communities to have internet access. This is especially important during this pandemic. There might be a push to open all the schools, but many schools have online learning programs. Students who lack internet access are falling behind. Internet access is also important for job seekers and many creatives.
For Now …
Let’s celebrate Ajit Pai’s departure from the FCC 🍾. Here’s a toast to all fans of net neutrality and all anti-corporatists. 🥂
Hmm … I wonder what the over/under is for how long it takes Pai to start working for Verizon again.