The perpetual outrage mob on the left has adopted an unlikely target of late - the brainy, affable head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Ajit Pai.Pai is now flanked by a Homeland Security protective detail everywhere he goes because of a deluge of specific, credible threats of violence toward him and his young children. He’s also facing on onslaught of racist smears and attacks too obscene to quote - including an image asserting that Pai is Osama bin Laden after shaving his beard.
Members of Congress are coming under similar attack for supporting Pai’s signature proposal. The most outrageous example resulted in a criminal indictment after Congressman John Katko received a message threatening: “I will find you and your family and I will kill you all. Do you understand? I will literally find all of you and your progeny and just wipe you from the face of the Earth.”
So what is the apocalyptic, world-changing Pai proposal that is inspiring violent, unhinged attacks from the left? He wants to rescind Obama Internet regulations that have only been in place for two years and return to the approach that was in effect since the Internet was privatized in the mid-1990s until 2015, treating net neutrality as a consumer protection and antitrust issue.
Personally, I recall the Internet improving pretty dramatically over those two decades, but the consensus on the left is that it was a hellscape.
How did that happen? How did so many people become passionately convinced of the plainly illogical proposition that the Internet would be destroyed if we went back to the light-touch regulatory approach that was in place for nearly all the Internet’s commercial history until just two years ago?
For over a decade, professional liberal organizers told the bizarre scare story that without heavy-handed government regulation, Internet service providers (ISPs) will start blocking what websites you can go to and impeding free speech on the Internet. No such thing happened. To the contrary, robust competition between phone and cable companies - and later wireless companies - drove speeds dramatically higher and consumers benefited from an Internet that innovated beyond our wildest dreams.
Nonetheless, in 2015, ultraliberal advocacy groups (fueled by $196 million from the Soros and Ford Foundations) and Silicon Valley giants like Google (which cycled a shocking 250 people through the Obama administration and saw regulating ISPs as a way to guarantee themselves access to below-market-rate downstream bandwidth) succeeded in getting the FCC to reclassify ISPs as regulated public utilities.
This was done under a Depression-era law designed for the old Ma Bell telephone monopoly. Thousands of requests to micromanage every aspect of the Internet piled up at the FCC Enforcement Bureau and the commission was set to adopt a sweeping new broadband tax to replace the private investment it scared off - with strings attached of course - during a Hillary Clinton administration.
The liberal organizers of the phony scare campaign had even bigger plans; Robert McChesney, the founder of Free Press - the group that was cited 46 times in the Obama net neutrality order - openly bragged: “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
It wasn’t meant to be.
The American people elected President Trump who in turn elevated free-market champion Ajit Pai to undo the mischief of the Obama FCC.
Of course, the noise machine won’t go down without doing what noise machines do, so the hysterical claims from the left are proliferating.
One puzzler is an image of deeply discounted limited data plans offered by a mobile carrier in Portugal. People sharing the image fail to note the same carrier also offers unlimited plans, and that limited data plans are legal here even under the Obama regulations. But those simple facts aside - would banning six-dollar limited data plans for people who can’t afford unlimited offerings be a good idea? It’s hard to see why it would be. But if you say that publicly you could face threats of violence.
Liberal money to demonize and attack Chairman Pai and his allies is flowing like water. Gigi Sohn, a top adviser to the Obama FCC, is now on the payroll of George Soros’s foundation, no doubt helping shovel head-spinning amounts of money to liberal advocacy groups out of the $18 billion Soros recently donated in one of the largest tax dodges in history.
Let’s just hope sanity can prevail before somebody gets killed, and the Internet can go back to innovating and improving without micromanagement from bureaucrats in Washington.
Mr. Kerpen is the president of American Commitment and the author of “Democracy Denied.” Kerpen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.