FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Responds to Cher's Twitter Comments Opposing Net Neutrality Repeal

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Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), pauses while speaking during an open meeting in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 16, 2017. 

As the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) vote to repeal Obama-era net neutrality vote approaches, Chairman Ajit Pai is taking an active approach to addressing concerns raised by the Republican-led proposal's critics. 

Speaking at an event in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday (Nov. 28) hosted by the R Street public policy research organization, which promotes free markets and limited government, Pai attempted to "cut through the hysteria" with a speech outlining what the plan will do and why he is advancing it. There, he also directly acknowledged criticisms raised by Cher and actors Alyssa Milano, Kumail Nanjiani, George Takei and Mark Ruffalo claiming the decision would free corporations like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to block or throttle certain content or require websites to buy into internet "fast lanes." 

Referencing an online comment from Cher that said the FCC proposal would "include less Americans, not more," Pai responded that "the opposite is true."

"The digital divide is all too real," he said. "I've spent numerous visits and spent over 4,000 road miles on the road myself seeing it first hand. Too many rural and low income Americans are still unable to get high speed internet access, but heavy-handed Title II regulation makes that problem worse. They reduce investment in broadband networks, especially in rural and low-income areas. So, by turning back time so to speak and returning internet regulation to the pre-2015 era, we will expand broadband networks and bring high speed access to more Americans, not fewer."

Pai also said that tech giants pose a larger threat to an open internet than FCC deregulation by discriminating against viewpoints online. 

"They might cloak their advocacy in the public interest," he said, "but the real interest of these internet giants is in using the regulatory process to cement their dominance in the internet economy."

Pai announced earlier this month the FCC would take a vote on Dec. 14 to overturn the current net neutrality rules implemented during the Obama administration that require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. If Pai's repeal passes, as it is expected to with Republicans holding three out of the FCC's five seats, it would also hand over regulatory oversight of service providers from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Watch the full speech here:


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