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What Is Net Neutrality? Who Is Ajit Pai? Technology Investors ‘Freaking Out’ Over New FCC Chair

Who is Ajit Pai? On Monday, President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, as reported by CNBC. Previously, Pai had served as a Republican member of the FCC, after having been nominated by former President Barack Obama and being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, in May 2012, as reported by the FCC.

What is net neutrality? Fortune explains that net neutrality is “the principle that network providers shouldn’t discriminate between different kinds of content when delivering services to consumers.”

Cenk Uygur, co-founder of The Young Turks, states that, currently, the United States and other countries enjoy internet neutrality because “providers can’t slow down one website and speed up another.”

The TYT host believes that, logically, as corporations charged with maximizing profits, internet providers would provide higher speeds to websites that could afford to pay higher fees. Currently, internet service providers are classified as utilities, which bars content providers with the ability to pay more from receiving faster service to deliver their content.

“They can slow down any website that doesn’t pay a fee, or, for whatever reason, they don’t agree with politically,” Uygur stated.

Cenk Uygur listed sites like 4chan, Reddit, and The Young Turks as internet content creators for which he sees uncertainty surrounding future access if current net neutrality laws are stricken. He also mentioned sites like The Huffington Post and Netflix possibly being able to afford paying more to give customers better and faster access to their content.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak applauds the decision of the FCC to implement the Open Internet Order.
Steve Wozniak, an Apple co-founder, applauds after the FCC approves net neutrality in February 2015. [Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

Uygur asked conservative viewers who support the First Amendment and freedom of speech, “You think they’re going to care about your ideology, or your principles, or your blog, when they’re going to maximize profits?”

The host explained that corporations, despite being part of a free-market system, despise free markets, which allow for competition. Instead, Uygur says that the logical course of action for corporate entities who have fiduciary duties to maximize profits is “killing off competition.”

“If you’re a capitalist, you want free markets. If you’re a corporatist, you want limited competition,” Uygur contrasted the two different viewpoints.

He highlighted the view that content creators with the “best content” should attract the most viewers, which current net neutrality laws provide for. If Ajit Pai does what is expected, those with the most money decide what will be accessible on the internet and what won’t.

“The internet is not their property, it is for all of us,” Cenk Uygur insisted.

In December, Ajit Pai stated that he wanted to “take a weed whacker” to current FCC net neutrality laws, including the Open Internet Order, responsible for neutrality.

Ellie Wheeler, a venture capitalist with Greycroft Partners, described technology investors “freaking out” over concerns that gutting the Open Internet Order could result in less innovation, as reported by CNBC. Wheeler expressed concerns that current and future startups may not have the “same opportunity” as Google, Alphabet, Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG, GOOGL), and Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) did when they started.

Newly appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Recently appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. [Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

Cenk Uygur noted a conservative viewpoint in favor of eliminating unnecessary regulations and how doing so should result in increased business activity. In this case, regulations ensure that providers can’t “play favorites.” A situation where reduced regulation results in less competition and fewer consumer choices — the opposite of what might be expected by conservatives.

The host found absurdity in a statement attributed to Ajit Pai that he has seen no evidence to back up claims that “discriminating” between content providers hurts consumers when such evidence would not be available, because net neutrality currently prevails.

Uygur expressed concern that internet providers would have the power to slow down the websites of content providers who couldn’t afford to pay “higher and higher fees,” and questioned why anyone would doubt the intention of corporate entities to pursue such a plan.

[Featured Image by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images]