POLITICS

FCC Boss Ajit Pai Blasts California's 'Illegal' Net Neutrality Measure

"Unlike Pai’s FCC, California isn’t run by the big telecom and cable companies,” responded state Sen. Scott Wiener.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission has slammed California’s new measure protecting net neutrality as an “illegal” action by the “nanny state.” A California legislator shot back that the Trump administration is run by big telecom and is out to hurt consumers.

The battle over keeping a level playing field on the internet is the latest pitting the Trump administration against California, which wields enough economic clout to mitigate the effects of the FCC’s vote last year to terminate net neutrality.

California legislators last month passed a measure requiring net neutrality for companies that operate in the state. It will be law once Gov. Jerry Brown signs it, which he is expected to do. The measure would bar internet service providers from blocking legal content or raising fees for “fast-track” delivery. 

The FCC voted last year to terminate net neutrality nationwide in a move unpopular with consumers. The action benefits big telecom companies by effectively strangling less-profitable content providers that couldn’t afford the higher costs of the content blocking and fast-track systems. 

FCC chair Ajit Pai called California’s measure “illegal” and “a risk to the rest of the country.” He indicated he will take action to block the law. “Internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines; it follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area,” he said in remarks Friday before the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center.

But California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who authored the measure, said that the state has to take action to protect consumers because Pai has “abdicated his responsibility to ensure an open internet. Unlike Pai’s FCC, California isn’t run by the big telecom and cable companies,” Wiener added.

He also blasted the Trump administration’s “crony capitalism.” California “understands exactly what it takes to foster an open innovation economy with a level playing field,” he said.

Once the measure becomes law, the next face-off will likely take place in the courts.

A group of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the nation’s population, last month asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulations. They argued that the FCC’s move hurts consumers and could harm public safety.

CONVERSATIONS