Net Neutrality

Net neutrality with a side of guns and Russian spies, comin’ right up

It was a really weird, wild week in the net neutrality world. Really weird.

Ajit Pai got a gun from the NRA last week in appreciation for his efforts to overturn Obama-era net neutrality regulations.

And the FCC might also have gotten a little help from the Russians in that effort.

Let’s take a closer look. We’ll start with the Russians because… well, why not.

This is something that started making the rounds at the end of 2017 but is worth mentioning again now.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel first spoke out against Pai’s proposal – which technically went into effect last Thursday but don’t for a single second think the battle is over – in December. She begged the American people to stand up and fight for real net neutrality, saying ISPs will have the “authority to block websites, to throttle services, and to censor and manipulate online content – to change the open internet we know.”

She also pointed out that of the 23 million comments the FCC received during last fall’s public comment period, many of which were problematic for a number of reasons, more than half a million came from Russian IP addresses.

Meddling: Not just for elections anymore

At the time, Bloomberg wrote about the “444,938 (comments) from Russian email addresses, which also raises eyebrows, even though it’s unclear if they were from actual Russian citizens or computer bots originating in the U.S. or elsewhere.”

Now Digital Music News is bringing the issue up again.

Speaking at the Washington: The State of the Net conference at the Newseum earlier this year, again mentioned the number of emails from Russian IP addresses, suggesting a major safety and security concern.

Digital Music News doesn’t link to a statement from Rosenworcel but quotes her saying “The FCC’s net neutrality decision is a study in what’s wrong with Washington. This agency has failed the American public. It failed to listen to their concerns and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land. It turned a blind eye to all kinds of corruption in our public record — from Russian intervention to fake comments to stolen identities in our files.”

In response, FCC Chief of Staff Travis Litman confirms the activity from Russian addresses, adding that Pai acknowledges this activity as well. However, “We are unaware of any investigation on the FCC’s behalf into this matter, though the (Government Accountability Office) has committed to investigate other problematic aspects of the FCC’s record.”

Now, about that gun

While most of the U.S. was embroiled in the most pointed and possible effective shouting match about gun control to date, Pai received the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award, in the form of a handmade Kentucky long gun from the NRA during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

Variety reports that Pai received the rifle and recognition in the spirit of Heston. The award is for a person who “stood up under pressure with grace and dignity and principled discipline.” Previous winners of the occasional award include Rush Limbaugh and Mike Pence.

As a reminder, here’s Pai’s “we’re not ruining anything! Your life and internet fun won’t change!” video from right around the time his FCC voted to overturn protects to keep internet service providers from creating fast and slow lanes and charging more for faster service.

If that’s not grace under pressure, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, technically, Pai has to travel outside of DC to the NRA’s tinted glass office next to I-66 in Fairfax, Virginia, to pick up the gun. Because, apparently, they couldn’t hand it to him as he sat on a panel with fellow commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr during CPAC.

Variety adds that Pai couldn’t accept the award while he’s still serving as a member of a public post. #Ethics.

Brian Hart, the FCC’s spokesperson said the acknowledgment of Pai’s “dignity and principled discipline” was a surprise to Pai.

Another CPAC attendee, Dan Schneider of the American Conservative Union, fawned over Pai, calling him the “most courageous, heroic person that I know,” facing “countless threats” as the appeal process moved forward and that “his property has been invaded by the George Soros crowd.”

Is that a bingo on the George Soros card? Someone check, please, and shout it out loud so the whole room can hear.

Addressing the crowd, Pai said he doesn’t “play small ball. I decided that I wanted to make a fundamental change in the way the (FCC) operates. I think it’s important for us to set the rules for the road that allow the American people to take control of their own lives, instead of having it run out of an American bureaucracy,” according to Gizmodo.

The current state of things

 

With publication of the final rule overturning net neutrality protections, the FCC looks to implement its changes in April. But remember that Eric Schneiderman, New York’s Attorney General, and a coalition of nearly a dozen other AGs, plus legislators at the state level in 20+ states, are pursuing legal action to prevent Pai’s changes from taking hold.

This is just the beginning of the fight, folks.

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