Ajit's Shell Game

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[Commentary] I’ve got bad news for everyone who is working overtime to protest Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s campaign to eliminate net neutrality: You are being tricked. Pai is running a kind of shell game, overreaching (“go ahead and run all the paid prioritization services you want, Comcast!”) so that we will focus our energies on the hard-to-pin-down concept of net neutrality—the principle of internet access fairness that he has vowed to eliminate. Chairman Pai is hoping to use outrage over net neutrality to drive everyone into the mosh pit of special interests that is lobbying on Capitol Hill. There will be strident calls from every side for reworking the existing Telecommunications Act to ensure that net neutrality continues. Just watch: The incumbents will piously say, “We like net neutrality too! We just need a different statute.” That’s a trap. We have a perfectly good statute already, and the Obama-era FCC’s interpretation of that statute so as to ensure an open internet—including its labeling of these giant companies as common carriers, which was necessary in order for open internet rules to be enforceable—has already been found reasonable. On the Hill, the public will be out-lobbied at every turn by the essentially unlimited resources of Comcast, Charter, CenturyLink, Verizon, and AT&T. [Susan Crawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.]


Ajit's Shell Game