Cantwell Remarks on Ajit Pai’s Nomination to Serve as FCC Commissioner

Sen. Cantwell: Madam President, I come to the floor to speak about the vote that we're going to have at 5:30, but I want to give my condolences for those impacted by the horrific shooting in Las Vegas. To the families, to the victims of this horrific incident, I want them to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them as our whole nation turns to this situation. My thoughts and prayers also go out to at least one Washington family that I know is one of those who have been impacted and was at this event. We may find out that there are others, but we are thinking and praying for their recovery and I hope that everybody will take time to say some thoughts and prayers for those people who have been impacted by this incident.

Madam President, I also want to come to the floor and speak in opposition to the nomination of Ajit Pai to have a second term as the chairman of the F.C.C. And the reason why we're out here speaking about this vote that's going to happen in a short period of time is because we're concerned about the future of innovation, the future of where consumers plan the decision-making of how they access content, and the future of our economy. And what I'm worried about is that in the short period of time that Chairman Pai has been at the F.C.C., that instead of the policies that would have been enabling consumers, he's taken actions that I think will have consumers paying more for less access, that media concentration will be more enabled, and that plans to protect net neutrality in an open internet will be reversed.

This, in and of itself, is the biggest issue that I and the economy of Washington state could possibly see with this renomination. That is to say that the state of Washington and the internet and innovation that exists there could be greatly impacted by the rolling back of protections, that we have now, that says that ‘you cannot artificially throttle or slow down internet activity or hold consumers hostage to pay more.’ The mission of the F.C.C. is to promote the use and deployment of communications that are in the public interest. And it’s the job of the chairman to make sure that mission is carried out. Undoing the existing net neutrality laws on the books is not in the public interest and it won't promote the access that we need. Dismantling this rule which would preserve the diversity of content, I think are things that will negatively impact our marketplace for a long time.

When you think about some of the issues that we've already seen and what we could see in the future is if more consumers are led to having to pay a toll. It's almost like what we see if you want to get into the fast lane, if you want to have this kind of rapid access, you have to pay more. So today consumers are using mobile apps to order coffee, to get access to health care information, to work, to making sure that we protect from what is a tax on now everything from our electricity grid to people's home security systems. So protecting people from cybersecurity.

I'm very worried if the internet's arteries are artificially slowed down or clogged our critical information could arrive too late to help protect consumers. If we're listing in a world where just the advent of more smart phones and people sharing information, we want to make sure they too can get access to information and are not slowed down or throttled in any way. When you think about this and the app economy that exists in Washington state, there are the fastest growing businesses. It is part of a large organization. Today, 1.7 million American jobs are because of these apps and nearly 92,000 are in the state of Washington. They have grown at an annual rate of 30%. The annual growth rate for other jobs is 8%. The growth rate of all other jobs is 1.6%. Why would you nominate someone who has already pledged to roll back the rules of an open internet that basically will create throttling and slowing down of content that will hurt the applications of these businesses.

Nobody wants to develop an application that connects consumers, whether it's in health care or protecting people in cyber or education or for that matter even the United States Senate. Are they going to have to pay a faster toll to get access to information? Dismantling net neutrality puts our economy in jeopardy. It causes the issues that created an open internet to be called into question. And while I know that some would say that it is necessary for investment, I would say that we've seen in the last several years, while the rule of an open internet has been in place, much investment in the infrastructure that is needed to carry on.

So I do not agree with my colleagues who think this is a necessary way to ground investment. I think it's a necessary thing that large cable companies would like to tell you they need so they can continue, as I said, fast and slow lanes, and charge consumers more if they want access to those fast lanes. I encourage my colleagues to vote no on Ajit Pai for a second term as F.C.C. Commissioner and let’s get focused on making sure that we protect an open internet. I thank the president and yield the floor.