Event News

Weekly News From the President: Antonin Scalia and Frederick Douglass Probably Disagree with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Antonin Scalia and Frederick Douglass Probably Disagree with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made headlines last week when he announced his plans to roll back protections for Net Neutrality that his predecessor Tom Wheeler put in place. The proceeding will be discussed at the FCC Open Meeting on May 18. It has a certain Orwellian quality to its language as it looks to “Restore Internet Freedom”.

There are many remarkable things about Chairman Pai’s April 26, 2017 speech. The speech was sponsored by FreedomWorks, a corporate backed anti-government think tank that calls itself a “grassroots service center.”

Pai personally targeted the pro Net Neutrality non-profit Free Press [https://www.freepress.net/ ] as being founded by a Communist sympathizer. For full disclosure, I worked for Free Press in 2013.

Sadly, in his speech, Chairman Pai made the claim that government in and of itself cannot defend freedom of speech. I can attest in the words of the late Antonin Scalia this is “pure jiggery-pokery”. I can hear Scalia, the staunch conservative and Net Neutrality defender, spinning in his grave at Pai’s words.

We all know this claim to be nonsense. In fact, many of you are testament to this. Local government does ensure that free speech can flourish if the public pressures it to ensure open communications. As Frederick Douglass (who’s doing great work) said, “power concedes nothing without a demand”. Local communities that demand open communications make sure there’s someone available to manage public communications and free expression.
Someone like you.

Pai’s proposals for internet reclassification will get the most attention at the FCC May 18 Open Meeting. However, just as important for us will be the beginning of a sweeping review of Media and Cable rules that he is proposing. The Modernization of Media Rules Initiative has the potential to do a lot of damage to public interest requirements in the name of helping “small business”. We will have more details on it as it is unveiled.

What’s important in all this is that you, your community and local government have to be engaged, informed and organized, ensuring you are protected as this agenda gets pushed – first at the FCC and then in Congress. My expectation is this Commission will try to push rule changes, and what the Commission cannot achieve through administrative action they will push with the current majority in Congress.

And if you can, be sure to join us for Hill Day advocacy in Washington DC on November 8.  I’ll have details in coming weeks, but we want to make sure your voice is heard here in Washington.

Grassroots Scholarship Fund Update
Today is the last day for our Grassroots Scholarship Fund campaign. Please think about young leaders and people in small communities across the country who benefit from the fund and will get travel assistance to our National Conference in Minneapolis this summer and consider making a gift, and thank you!!!

Mike Wassenaar
President & CEO