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'Ajit Pai Won't Be Laughing Long,' Say Internet Defenders, After FCC Chair Applauds Death of Net Neutrality

"The internet freedom movement is stronger than it's ever been as we head into 2019. We'll keep fighting in the states, in the courts, and in Congress."

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee May 17, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai applauded House lawmakers on Wednesday for refusing to restore net neutrality before last month's deadline, open internet advocates vowed to keep up the fight for net neutrality in 2019 and promised that "Ajit Pai won't be laughing long."

"Every single lawmaker who voted against the CRA in the Senate or failed to sign on to the discharge petition in the House has exposed themselves as industry puppets."
—Evan Greer, Fight for the Future

"It's an uphill battle, but we are winning the fight to restore net neutrality," Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, declared in a statement. "The internet freedom movement is stronger than it's ever been as we head into 2019. We'll keep fighting in the states, in the courts, and in Congress. It's only a matter of time before net neutrality is the law of the land again."

While open internet advocates failed in their ultimate goal of fully repealing Pai's attack on net neutrality—which the Republican-controlled FCC rammed through in December of 2017 despite opposition from the vast majority of Americans—Greer noted that the fight to pass the net neutrality Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution "shined a giant spotlight on corruption in Congress."

"Every single lawmaker who voted against the CRA in the Senate or failed to sign on to the discharge petition in the House has exposed themselves as industry puppets. They put the interests of telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T over the basic rights of their constituents," Greer said.

See where every member of Congress stands on net neutrality here.

"We used the CRA as a powerful tool to get lawmakers on the record," she continued. "Pundits claimed it would never pass the Senate—but we channeled internet outrage into real political power and got more than enough votes. If House leadership had allowed a vote on the CRA, we likely would have won that too."

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In his celebratory statement (pdf) on Wednesday, Pai—a former Verizon lawyer—called net neutrality protections that most Americans support "heavy-handed internet regulation," and argued that his agency's corporate-friendly approach is keeping the web "free and open."

As Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica noted, "Pai didn't mention a recent case in which CenturyLink temporarily blocked its customers' Internet access in order to show an ad or a recent research report accusing Sprint of throttling Skype (which Sprint denies)."

Pai went on to claim that "broadband speeds are up, with download speeds in the United States increasing more than 35 percent in 2018," suggesting that his agency's elimination of net neutrality protections did not harm the web like open internet advocates said it would.

Greer dismissed Pai's argument as "laughable," calling it "the tech policy equivalent of 'it's snowing outside, therefore climate change is a hoax.'"

With the new congressional session set to officially begin on Thursday, Greer expressed confidence that the struggle to restore net neutrality will ultimately be successful.

"Now that the clock has run out, every single American knows exactly where their representatives stand," Greer concluded. "Dozens of anti-net neutrality members of Congress have already lost their jobs, and supporters of the open internet will soon chair the key committees that provide oversight for the FCC."

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