“The most hated person on the internet,” was how it was titled a video released on YouTube in reference to Ajit Pai, the president of the Federal Communications Commission of the United States (FCC, for its acronym in English).
The video, created by the controversial comic and Swedish producer of the web, PewDiePie, obtained more than three million visits, was published two weeks before the FCC voted for the repeal of the regulations that guarantee the neutrality of the internet.
The vote of Ajit Pai – who was appointed to his post by the newly-appointed president Donald Trump, in January 2017 – was decisive in tilting the balance 3 to 2.
What consequences will the end of Internet neutrality have in the United States (and how will it affect the rest of the world)?
Pai, of republican political affiliation, never hid his opposition to the regulations to protect the internet neutrality imposed during the government of the former Democratic president, Barack Obama, which were approved with a favorable vote of the representatives in the commission associated with the Democratic Party. .
The irony is that it was Obama himself who appointed Pai to the commission of five FCC members, in May 2012, on the recommendation of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.
“Skilled and knowledgeable”
Son of Indian immigrants, Ajit Pai is a lawyer graduated from the University of Chicago, with a previous degree in Business Administration from Harvard University.
At 44, he has had an ascendant and outstanding career both within the institutions of the US government and the corporate world, particularly that of telecommunications.
In February 2001, he held the position of Associate General Counsel of Verizon, one of the large multinational telecommunication conglomerates.
In 2003, he was hired as deputy chief of advice to the US Senate Judiciary Committee. and then held several positions in the Department of Justice, before moving on to the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC president was always an outspoken opponent of the regulations imposed on the Internet and strongly argued against the decision to enact those laws.
He is a tireless proponent of less government interference in business.
In addition to skillfully and socially managing social networks, both adepts and critics recognize their extraordinary ability to deal with complex issues of law and communications.
His appointment as commander of the commission was praised by prestigious capital and market publications such as Forbes, who wrote in January 2017 that Pai has spent his life involved in technology and communications issues.
“He has had an extraordinary legal career for an individual of any age, much less a person in his 40s,” wrote Harold Furchgott-Roth in Forbes.
The magazine highlighted his time with the Justice Department and his work advising two Republican senators, adding that his leadership in the FCC was “very good news for technology companies in Silicon Valley and the internet ecosystem.”
His detractors, however, look with suspicion at the links that Pai has with the elite of the Republican Party and with multinationals like Verizon.
“He watches over the interest of the corporations he represented in the private sector,” Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, a group that advocates for digital rights, told the LA Times newspaper.
Why is it worrying in the US? the law that will allow Internet providers to sell browsing histories and other information of their users
“Millions of Americans across the political spectrum have come to depend on the FCC to protect their rights to connect and communicate and to cheer decisions such as the historic regulation of internet neutrality,” Aaron said.
“Debug the weeds”
Neutrality activists remember that Pai, when working for Verizon, campaigned against the limit that was being placed on the price increase of telephone calls made by prison inmates.
In particular, they reacted in terror at the speech he gave to a conservative group one month before his appointment: “We need to turn on the weed scrubber to remove all those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation.”
Many argue that repealing these rules will make the Internet less open and accessible.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a consumer advocate and law professor at Georgetown University, told L.A. Times that Pai would be a “formidable opponent” of public interest groups.
“Not only is he an outspoken detractor of many of the advances made (under the former head of the FCC) but he is also extremely intelligent and knowledgeable.”
However, others who support Sajit Pai believe that the hostility to the recent FCC decision is exaggerated, underlining the president’s promise to “protect the principles of neutrality as it moves forward.”
Nothing has been defined yet and the FCC decision already faces legal challenges. New York Attorney General Eric Schneideman announced he will be leading a lawsuit against the commission.