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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Says His Family Has Been Harassed Over Pending Net Neutrality Action

WASHINGTON — FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said his family has been harassed at his home following his proposal to repeal many of the agency’s net neutrality rules.

“Internet regulation activists have crossed the line by threatening and harassing my family. They should leave my family out of this and focus on debating the merits of the issue,” Pai said in a statement.

Pai told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that the harassment “crosses a line.” One sign, shown on the show, read, “They will come to know the truth. Dad murdered democracy in cold blood.” The signs were placed outside his neighbor’s house by an unidentified person.

Pai told the show that the sign was “a little nerve-racking, especially for my wife who’s not involved in this space.”

The FCC will vote on Dec. 12 whether to roll back 2015 rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or throttling content, or from selling “fast lanes” so major companies can get speedier access to consumers. Net neutrality activists say such rules are necessary to prevent the internet from being walled off, where access is restricted by ISPs or where certain sites have an unfair advantage over others.

But in the interview, Pai argued that light-touch regulations served the internet well before the rules were put in place.

“All we are simply doing is putting engineers and entrepreneurs, instead of bureaucrats and lawyers, in charge of the internet,” Pai told “Fox & Friends” last week, adding that they wanted to “return to the free market consensus that started during the Clinton years” that “served the internet economy in America very well for many years.”

Pai’s chief of staff, Matthew Berry, has also posted some of the racist and threatening tweets sent to Pai. His wife has received threatening messages at her workplace, according to an FCC source.
Public internet advocates who oppose the FCC’s pending action condemned the harassing messages.

Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner who favors the current rules and opposes Pai’s proposal, said on Twitter that the harassment was “unacceptable. Under any circumstances.”

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who is critical of Pai’s proposal, wrote on Twitter that “anyone who uses hate speech against him is no ally of mine. Racism and xenophobia are never in the public interest. Net neutrality means inclusion and bringing everyone — regardless or tradition, creed, or station in life — to the table.”

Then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler also faced protests outside his home in 2014, as the agency was devising its latest version of net neutrality rules. Wheeler eventually backed a robust approach in which internet service was reclassified as a common carrier. That allowed the FCC a legal foundation to establish stronger rules. Pai is also proposing to roll back that common carrier designation and to classify the internet as an information service.

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