“Crony” capitalist FCC chair rips California’s “nanny state legislators”

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Ajit Pai verbally grasped at straws to slam a California bill that would reinstate network neutrality rules. In a speech in Maine, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission snarked “I can understand how they succumbed to the temptation to regulate. After all, I suppose a broadband pipe might look to some like a plastic straw”. He was referring to Californian attempts to send plastic straws the way of the disposable bag.

Pai repeated a common argument used by industry lobbyists – that senate bill 822 would end popular free data plans – and called it “a radical, anti-consumer Internet regulation bill”. He predicted it wouldn’t stand up to legal challenges…

The broader problem is that California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country. After all, broadband is an interstate service; Internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines. It follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area. For if individual states like California regulate the Internet, this will directly impact citizens in other states.

Among other reasons, this is why efforts like California’s are illegal.

The author of SB 822, state senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco), wasted no time in shooting back at Pai

Unlike Pai’s FCC, California isn’t run by the big telecom and cable companies. Pai can take whatever potshots at California he wants. The reality is that California is the world’s innovation capital, and unlike the crony capitalism promoted by the Trump Administration, California understands exactly what it takes to foster an open innovation economy with a level playing field…

Since the FCC says it no longer has any authority to protect an open internet, it’s also the case that the FCC lacks the legal power to preempt states from protecting their residents and economy.

Wiener’s optimism has yet to be proven out. The crony capitalism he derides is alive and well in Sacramento – he had to overcome it to get SB 822 as far as he has. But it’s not a done deal yet. Governor Jerry Brown hasn’t said what he plans to do with it, and those same deep-pocketed telco and cable lobbyists are working his office, too.

The deadline for a decision is 30 September 2018.