WASHINGTON, July 1, 2014 – At an informal Phoenix Center roundtable on Tuesday, June 24, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly criticized net neutrality and urged fellow critics to take advantage of the FCC’s open comment period on the topic.
Comedians like John Oliver of the Daily Show might have a flare for butchering the facts, O’Rielly said, but a jolt to the system is what public discourse desperately needs to get people talking about net neutrality.
O’Rielly argued that net neutrality proponents are on a crusade to fix a non-existent problem.
“Truth be told, we [at the FCC] haven’t provided any evidence of harm to consumers today,” he said. “If you read the public statements that providers have made, they have committed to existing practices which they think are beneficial to consumers…. We’re trying to impose a new rule without any harm.”
Matthew Berry, chief of staff to Commissioner Ajit Pai, said broadband regulation is unnecessary in a market with choices. A provider that blocks today is just going to be replaced by another. Jenner and Block Partner Sam Feder echoed this belief, saying that as long as the internet is competitive, the market will discipline it into openness.
O’Rielly even went on to say that the he doesn’t believe Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act actually gives the FCC any authority to regulate broadband services.
“I have deep concerns about where you can take that authority,” he said. “I believe that you can take that argument all the way over to standalone edge providers — and that’s extremely dangerous.”
If the FCC is to make thoughtful and informed decisions, then it’s up to the public to voice their concerns, O’Rielly said.