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FCC Chair's Criticism of Net Neutrality is Scrutinized

This is Net Neutrality Action Day. (Ronstik/iStockphoto)
This is Net Neutrality Action Day. (Ronstik/iStockphoto)
July 12, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Net Neutrality Day of Action is Wednesday and as the Federal Communications Commission takes steps to reverse net neutrality, a term for a free and open Internet, researchers say a key assumption for the move does not hold water.

In his argument to revisit the Obama-era rule, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cited a paper published in an academic journal that maintained the agency had failed to consider the economic impacts on industry.

Jefferson Pooley, co-author of a new study published in the same International Journal for Communication, says Pai's position is based on a paper riddled with factual errors and unsubstantiated claims.

"We showed that this core claim was incorrect – that, in fact, economists had been perhaps more active in coming up with the net neutrality rules than ever before," Pooley points out.

Pooley's team also found that the article cited by Pai was paid for by CALinnovates, a PR group that specializes in promoting policy for AT and T, an Internet service provider that Pooley says could benefit if open Internet rules are reversed.

Proponents of rolling back net neutrality say regulating Internet service providers as a utility hampers innovation and investment.

Pooley maintains the failure to disclose industry funding amounts to "information laundering," making it possible for the FCC director to cite an academic publication without any trace of AT and T's fingerprints.

He says it's important for the public, and public officials, to know whose interests are behind research.

"We would probably dismiss a claim that AT and T made directly against net neutrality, since they stand to gain financially,” he states. “So, instead of making the argument directly, they funded academics who published an article in an academic journal."

Pooley adds that CALinnovates threatened legal action against the journal and the University of Southern California, its host, unless material involving the firm was removed.

The FCC is accepting public comments on its plan, called Restoring Internet Freedom, through Monday at fcc.gov.




Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD