Cantwell to Oppose Pai Renomination to FCC, Cites Pai’s Efforts to Roll Back Net Neutrality
Cantwell: “A strong and open internet is key to an economy of the future”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) took to the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to vote down the renomination of Ajit Pai to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
“I rise today to strongly oppose the nomination of Ajit Pai to serve a second term as chairman of the FCC. Since taking over the FCC leadership in January, Chairman Pai has wasted no time in moving the agency away from its key mission to promote the use and deployment of communications in the public interest,” said Cantwell.
During his time at the FCC, Pai has been a consistent opponent of the FCC's net neutrality rules that protect a free and open internet. Eliminating these rules would allow big telecom and cable companies to charge small businesses and individuals more for faster access, creating a fast lane and a slow lane for internet access. Cantwell’s comments come as the FCC reviews the overwhelming negative sentiment it received during the public comment period on the Commission’s proposal to roll back the rules.
“A strong and open internet is key to an economy of the future, to giving the innovation and creative jobs that are going to come along with an open internet architecture,” said Cantwell. “I will continue to fight for my state's economy that depends so greatly on [net neutrality] and to the millions of consumers around the United States who are trying to grow what are smarter, more intelligent, more cost-effective businesses.”
In May, Chairman Pai began the process of abandoning net neutrality, neglecting his agency’s responsibility to act in the public interest. Rolling back the rules threatens to erase the opportunities created by equal access and chokes the internet’s powerful economic engine, one that has been roaring since the rules were passed in 2015.
Earlier this year, Senator Cantwell hosted FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn for a town hall in Seattle focused on net neutrality. The two heard directly from constituents about the benefits of a free and open internet and how rolling back net neutrality protections would hurt their jobs and businesses. Full video of the town hall can be found HERE.
In the Senate, Cantwell led the charge to establish net neutrality rules and ensure equal access to the internet. She was an early advocate for the FCC to take up net neutrality and used her position as a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee to keep continuous pressure on the Commission during the drafting and implementation of the Open Internet Order – the rules that enshrine net neutrality – in 2015.
A full transcript of Cantwell’s remarks is below.
Sen. Cantwell: I rise today to strongly oppose the nomination of Ajit Pai to serve as second term as chairman of the FCC. Since taking over the FCC leadership in January, Chairman Pai has wasted no time in moving the agency away from its key mission to promote the use and deployment of communications in the public interest. For example, he's been involved in dismantling the rules that preserve the diversity of content in media ownership, potentially negatively impacting forever the number and variety of voices in the media market. In addition, his confirmation to this important position will also have a negative impact on one of the most important issues I believe of our time and that is preserving net neutrality.
A strong and open internet is key to an economy of the future, to giving the innovation and creative jobs that are going to come along with an open architecture.
Chairman Pai is poised to undo what our bedrock principles is already in place to protect an open internet. Even in the face of that evidence, that it is important to an internet economy and millions of jobs, he is determined to try to rewrite them.
On Monday the Senate will vote whether to confirm Ajit Pai for another term as chairman of the FCC. As I have said, I think his leadership has shown that on net neutrality he believes the rules should be changed. As long as he continues to hold that position, I cannot support his nomination.
As the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he has demonstrated a disdain to these important public interest principles that he's supposed to be upholding, and it shows a disregard for the innovators in America that are striving so much to build the economy of the future. The public interest mission of the FCC is encoded in the agency's DNA. The law created the FCC and clearly states that the agency's mission includes promoting equal access to communication networks for all people around the United States. This means the FCC has the responsibility to promote the expansion of communication networks and to ensure they have the incentive and ability to compete fairly with one another in providing broadband services, not letting a big telecom company or cable company run over small businesses or consumers and say to them, unless you pay me more, I’m not going to give you essential services.
Imagine if that would have happened to the telephone industry decades ago. If you couldn't get access because someone had decided I’m going to let the highest bidder rule the roost. The President's nomination, and his desire to make him chair, continues to show a desire to undermine the internet and the internet economy. As soon as he was appointed, Chairman Pai announced his intention as chairman to go against the demands of American consumers and reverse the rules that are already on the books to protect consumers.
Chairman Pai wants to make it possible for those big telecom and cable companies to erect toll lanes that would further burden the nature of the internet and the innovation this economy supports. He plans to go against more than 10 million American consumers and innovators who have told him to keep the internet open and free.
So recent studies have shown that the internet economy is now over 7% of U.S. gross domestic product and it employs 7 million people and is worth $1 trillion. Our strong, robust internet rules, without question, have helped keep that economic growth. Our economy is in a massive technological transformation. It's in an information age. And in an information age, making sure you have an open internet is going to be key to continuing to growing business.
Every business plan of every start-up relies on its ability to access consumers and for those consumers to get equal access to content. And largely as a result of the innovations, this has created hundreds of thousands of tech jobs in the United States. The internet economy almost $1 trillion and 7% of GDP is growing faster and stronger than many other sectors, including construction, mining, utilities, agriculture, education, and entertainment.
So, it is disturbing to me that Chairman Pai has made it clear that he wants to rewrite the rules that protect those businesses and create an artificial fast and slow lane, and if you want out of the slow lane, you better pay me more money. We can't do that for all the applications and small businesses continuing to work on growing our economy. We need to make sure that instead of shedding jobs in the U.S., as we did in the last economic downturn, that we are creating jobs and power for consumers.
We have seen what has been termed the app economy, which consists of everybody who makes money as a job thanks to a mobile app that was also powered by the internet. Today 1.7 million Americans have jobs because of that economy. Nearly 92,000 of them are in the state of Washington. So over the past five years that app economy and those jobs have grown at an annual rate of 30%. The average growth rate for all other jobs is 1.6%. So literally you are trying to clog the arteries of one of the fastest-growing economic opportunities in America. By 2020 the app economy would grow to over $100 billion. This demonstrates that the internet economy is a dynamic, supercharged, job-creating economy that should not be slowed down because some industries believe that they have the right to do so.
These facts in making sure we protect an open internet is why we should not support Chairman Pai. The slow lanes and the fast lanes are not like a highway where a consumer or business can take another route or plan another course. Here you're creating barriers that are wedges between businesses and their consumers, between doctors and their patients, between industry solution providers and the customers they are trying to serve.
The growth of the internet platform for economic activity is something that we do not want to see destroyed. And Chairman Pai's dismantling of that robust, open internet architecture and the support that it gives to innovators, is extremely troubling to me. I think about all the applications that I’ve seen in my state, whether it's a business like McKinstry which provides efficiencies to school districts all over our state and Puget Sound. Let's pretend now that McKinstry, who is trying to tell a North Shore school district they're using too much power or they can reduce their cost by just doing these three things, but now all of a sudden McKinstry has to charge that school district more if they want to get that information to them on time. A clogged artery will not get the information to that school district when it's needed in time to make an adjustment.
Let's talk about a doctor in a rural area who receives information about someone who comes into their emergency room but wants a consult with somebody in Seattle, and all of a sudden now their connection and connectivity is slowed down again unless they pay more money.
Or I think about it in just some very traditional ways of people going to get coffee who now in my state pre-order, go online, and show up to get that – all so they can avoid the long lines but now all of a sudden is that also going to be another toll, an extra toll, just to get it to go as fast as consumers want it to go? Or are cable companies or online providers going to say you have to pay more if you want a fast lane?
What Chairman Pai doesn't realize is that the internet is now a full-blown ecosystem, with all attachments; that the internet is like the artery system that connects it all and connects it in so many ways beyond even our imagination. And yet he is proposing to clog those arteries, to hold us ransom if only we will tell a cable company it’s okay to charge the American consumer more.
We cannot afford to ruin the internet economy by doing this. You need to have an open architecture that allows everybody to access this information at the same time and the same rate so that we can have an open internet architecture.
There are ways to grow the internet and grow internet investment in the delivery system. In fact, during the time period of the open internet rules, we have seen just that, a continued investment. So we do not now have to rewrite these rules. We do not now have to throw a roadblock, a hurdle, a clogging of the arteries at the small business and internet economy that is growing so rapidly with all its devices. God forbid that one of our colleagues would be on the other side of town and get a delayed message about when a vote started just because we in the Senate hadn't bought a higher, faster speed lane and maybe they would miss a vote. It's hard to say what slowing down the internet artificially would do because it is so connected to everything we do today. And that is why we have to stop.
I’m happy to hear that Chairman Pai would drop his insistence on trying to change the rules of an open internet. I might think differently about his nomination. But I will continue to fight for my state's economy that depends so greatly on this and to the millions of consumers around the United States who are trying to grow what are smarter, more intelligent, more cost-effective businesses.
Even the health care debate we just had, I believe in home health care. I believe we can get there and drive down costs. But if you're telling a doctor and a patient ‘you might not get the information back from your doctor for days because he can't afford a fast internet connection that the cable companies are charging,’ then I guarantee you we're not going to reduce our health care costs. So please, I ask my colleagues: you will not have another chance at this. You will not, when you hear from your constituents about this issue, be able to take back this vote. Please make sure you understand that Chairman Pai is marching ahead on a very different picture. And because of that, I’m not going to vote for someone who is going to slow down and clog the internet. And I urge my colleagues to vote no on Chairman Pai and his nomination. I thank the president and I yield the floor.
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