President Donald Trump’s newly appointed chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, who has begun to attack net neutrality rules and other consumer protections. In a series of actions earlier this month, Pai blocked nine companies from providing affordable high-speed internet to low-income families. He withdrew the FCC’s support from an effort to curb the exorbitant cost of phone calls from prison. And he also said he disagrees with the 2015 decision to regulate the internet like a public utility.
Jessica González talking:
Ajit Pai is Trump’s new FCC chairman, and it should come as a surprise to no one that he poses a significant threat, not only to net neutrality, but also to the digital divide. In his first weeks—his first week in office, he talked a good game about bridging the digital divide. But actions speak louder than words. And if you look at his actions, there’s a very, very troubling history of voting against reforms to both bring affordable access to poor Americans, to low-income Americans, to people of color, who disproportionately lack home internet access, but there’s also a troubling history of voting against net neutrality. He voted against the Lifeline order, to modernize Lifeline and bring affordable broadband to low-income families. He voted against the E-rate order, to help bring high-speed internet to schools and libraries in poor neighborhoods. And he voted against net neutrality, to keep the internet open so that people who don’t usually get a spot in mainstream media can tell their own stories, can organize for justice and can make a living. And so, we’re very concerned. We have a close eye on him. And we can’t trust what he says. And actions speak louder than words.
we’re in an administration that is trying to shut down speech. We have a president and his surrogates telling the media to shut up. They’re trying to silence dissent. And the internet is the one clear way where we know that people, movements can control the narrative and can organize. Four million Americans wrote to the FCC in 2015 and told them, “We want an open internet. We understand that the internet companies have monopoly-like status, that they are blocking—you know, that they have the power and the incentive to block access and to cut special deals behind our backs. And we don’t want that. We want to be able—once we pay the hefty prices we do to get on the internet, we want to be able to go where we want, see what we want, and access the content we want, without getting shoved over into a slow lane if you don’t have the money.” And so, it’s incredibly vital, now more than ever, that we protect an open internet and that this administration heed the millions and millions of regular people, that—you know, I think we cannot trust Ajit Pai. He’s a former Verizon lobbyist. He’s, you know, walking in the footsteps of Trump. And we need to be very, very, very careful.
there’s a few organizations that represent people of color that have come out on the wrong side of this issue. It’s troubling, but, frankly, if you look at the grassroots, the vast majority of people of color understand this. We understand that we do not like the way we have been represented in mainstream media. We’re portrayed as criminals. We’re portrayed as people who pose a danger to the society. We understand that the internet has played a democratizing force in making sure that our voices are heard, in making sure that we’ve been able to organize and in making sure that we can really, you know, tap into the networks that we need to tap into to change the narrative in this country for the better of lots of different issues—for the water protectors, for immigrant rights activists, for Black Lives Matter. And we see the way that movements have utilized the internet to change the way society perceives us. And so, these groups—there’s a few of them—they’re on the wrong side of the issue, and it’s very troubling. But, you know, they don’t represent most people of color on this.
in both 2013 and 2015, the FCC looked at the issue of exorbitant prison phone rates. Some families of inmates and detainees are paying up to $17 for a 15-minute call. It’s outrageous. The prisons are getting kickbacks from prison phone companies to charge these exorbitant rates. And it’s a real abuse of power. Ajit Pai actually acknowledged that this was unjust and that the interests of inmates’ families may not necessarily align with the prison phone companies’. Yet he went ahead and voted against two different orders to help regulate the rates and the fees that are charged by these companies. And so, he talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk. In fact, he filed a 20-page dissent in 2013 that mirrored some of the company talking points. And so, we have to really hold him accountable on this. He does not have the best interests of communities of color and poor people at heart. And we need to hold his feet to the fire.
FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee and Diversity Committee. It’s been a couple years since I’ve heard anything about those. They used to be active, few years back. We’d meet on a semiregular basis. I don’t think I’ve received an official word on whether or not they exist anymore, but I certainly haven’t been invited to any meetings in the past couple of years.
deputy director and senior counsel at Free Press. González was formerly on the FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee and Diversity Committee. She was formerly the executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
— source democracynow.org