Republicans invoked Star Wars’s evil galactic emperor in their attacks on new broadband regulations on Friday, warning that the public and Silicon Valley were in for an unpleasant surprise.
Quoting Emperor Palpatine, Republican Ajit Pai, a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said: “Young fool … Only now, at the end, do you understand.”
Meme wars between the two sides of the debate continued through the day, as internet advocates Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and Free Press flew an airplane towing a 2,000 square foot banner over the towering corporate headquarters of the cable giant Comcast, in Philadelphia.
The victory banner depicted the feline internet star Grumpy Cat and the legend: “Comcast: Don’t Mess With the Internet. #SorryNotSorry.”
Referring to Pai’s comments Evan Greer, campaigns director at Fight for the Future, said: “What they didn’t know is that when they struck down the last rules we would come back more powerful than they could possibly imagine.”
Pai and fellow Republican FCC commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who have been consistent critics of the FCC’s new rules, said once they are published people will realise that they will stifle innovation and lead to taxes and increased rates for the public.
“When you see this document, it’s worse than you imagine,” said O’Rielly at a conference in Washington organised by the think tank TechFreedom.
The FCC on Thursday voted through strict new rules to regulate broadband and protect net neutrality – the principle that all information and services should have equal access to the internet.
The historic vote was cheered by internet activists, President Barack Obama and many in the tech community. However, few people have seen the actual orders. On Friday the FCC was finalising its documentation for publication – it it is not expected to release the orders until next week at the very earliest.
Pai said the new rules would mean “permission-less innovation is a thing of the past”. The new rules will ban broadband providers from creating fast lanes for some or slowing the traffic of others for commercial reasons. They will also give the FCC the power to police conduct by broadband providers on a case-by-case basis.
Internet service providers will not be allowed to “unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage” consumers’ access to content and services.
O’Rielly said this would mean that any company looking to start a new service would have to seek permission ahead of time. He said anybody looking for new business opportunities in the document would be best off becoming a “telecoms lawyer”.