ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WFFF/WVNY) – In a surprise trip to Vermont to tout rural broadband access, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday said that states like Vermont can’t impose their own rules to protect net neutrality.
Under Pai’s leadership, the FCC has done away with net neutrality protections that kept internet providers from slowing down or blocking specific websites.
Vermont is one of eight states that bar internet providers from blocking or throttling web traffic. Lawmakers in two dozen other states have introduced net neutrality legislation aimed at wrestling some control of the internet from the FCC.
Pai argues they don’t have the legal authority to do so.
“A recent court decision made this clear — that the internet is inherently interstate activity, and it follows from that that only the federal government can set policy,” he said. “You don’t want a patchwork of 50 different states taking a bite at the regulatory apple.”
Pai also responded to questions about the agency’s policies on social media. He said he doesn’t want sites like Facebook and Twitter to operate under the same rules that internet providers do.
But he thinks it’s time for more oversight of social media.
“What I’ve said is that we should simply have transparency, that consumers should understand how these social-media tech giants are using their information, and how that information is ultimately being collected,” Pai said. “I think, especially as these social media platforms ultimately control how we experience the internet, what we see and what we don’t, I think it’s time we have some more insight.”
In a Wednesday morning visit to Springfield Wednesday, Pai said about 24 million Americans still lack access to high-speed internet, predominantly in rural areas.
He said more broadband service can make Vermont communities stronger.
“Everything from a cheese manufacturer in Greensboro to telemedicine in Springfield, they’re using the internet in innovative ways, and it informs our decision-making at the FCC all the much more,” he said.
He said he’s been meeting with Vermonters who are enjoying the economic benefits of broadband.
“It’s a variety of entrepreneurs and telecom companies and consumers, and we want to learn more about how they’re using the internet and building internet infrastructure in areas that are sometimes hard to serve,” Pai said.