October 25, 2020

1844 words 9 mins read

Ajit Pai Easily The Most Controversial FCC Boss In History Will Step Down January 20

Ajit Pai Easily The Most Controversial FCC Boss In History Will Step Down January 20

While many GOP members continue to happily undermine democracy by fueling Trump’s baseless electoral fraud claims, FCC boss Ajit Pai won’t be coming along for the ride. In a statement, Pai confirmed that, as is custom, he’ll be stepping down as agency head on January 20 as the Biden administration takes over. Historically, the party that controls the White House controls both a 3-2 commissioner ma

jority, and the top spot at the agency.

Pai’s tenure wasn’t entirely devoid of value. The agency boss did oversee massive and noncontroversial wireless spectrum auction efforts that will deliver troves of valuable spectrum to market, and spearheaded the creation of the nation’s first suicide prevention hotline (988).

But by and large Pai’s tenure was comprised of a parade of industry-cozy policies, bad data, hubris, and in many instances, outright lies.

The shining example of this was Pai’s net neutrality repeal, which not only killed net neutrality rules, but the agency’s ability to hold telecom giants accountable for much of anything. The repeal took the consumer protection authority of an agency crafted to police telecom, and shoveled it to the FTC – which lacks the resources or authority to do the job (which is precisely why the industry wanted this to happen).

To force this hugely unpopular proposal through, Pai lied repeatedly about net neutrality’s impact, claiming the modest rules (by international standards) had demolished telecom sector investment. Once repealed, Pai lied just as often about how the repeal had resulted in a huge spike in investment (it hadn’t). When reporters contacted Pai’s FCC to fact check the agency’s dodgy numbers, they were literally directed to telecom lobbyists who’d provided the false data. Reporters who asked tough questions were effectively blacklisted during Pai’s tenure.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Pai’s office blocked law enforcement inquiries into the broadband industry (and Trumpland’s) use of fake and dead people to provide bogus public support for unpopular policies. And when genuine, pissed off, John Oliver viewers wrote to the FCC to complain swamping the FCC website, FOIA data revealed that Pai’s office repeatedly lied and claimed it had been the victim of a DDOS attack. The entire affair culminated in Pai dancing with a pizzagate conspiracy theorist in a video the internet would like to forget.

As such Pai’s tenure wasn’t just pockmarked by bad data and bad policy, it was, as is custom for the Trump era, a shining example of trolling as a government policy, where policymakers take an active enjoyment in being insufferable and hostile. Hostile to the press. Hostile to the public. Hostile to experts and expert data, especially if those experts question entrenched industry ideology.

Pai and friends spent years proclaiming that some modest net neutrality rules were an utterly vile example of “government run amok.” Pai’s FCC then immediately pivoted on a dime and supported Trump’s utterly idiotic plan to have the FCC regulate social media, despite having no authority in that arena. From beginning to end, the entire saga was a pile of lies, nonsense, and hypocrisy. It was not only bad and unpopular policy, at every turn it was done so in a way that poured lemon juice in the wound of those genuinely interested in consumer welfare and data-based decision making.

Of course there are numerous other Pai-era efforts that were equally contemptible. Again using bunk data, Pai orchestrated a massive rollback of decades-old media consolidation rules designed to protect small and mid-sized businesses from giant media (and telecom) monopolies. He also spent years targeting Lifeline, a Reagan-era effort that provides a measly $9.25 to low-income homes to be used on phone, broadband or wireless service. And that’s when Pai wasn’t busy rubber stamping job and competition killing mergers or trying to ban states from being able to protect consumers in the wake of federal apathy.

Of course in Pai’s head, he remains convinced he did wonders for the American consumer:

“I’m proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people.”

Except with a few exceptions (mostly related to noncontroversial spectrum policy), it’s hard to see Pai’s tenure at the agency as little more than a giant middle finger to accountability and the American public. He effectively neutered the agency’s consumer protection authority at lobbyist behest, utterly fabricated justifying data, then turned around and undermined the only chance the public had to have its voice heard. All right before the U.S. was struck by an historic public and human health crisis revealing broadband’s essential role as a connective utility.

This being the post-truth era, entrenched telecom monopolies and their various policy tendrils will inevitably applaud Pai’s tenure as the pinnacle of innovation and regulatory “reform.” But history won’t be kind to a man who rubber stamped every fleeting whim of U.S. telecom monopolies, with a disdain for real world data unmatched in agency history (though FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell occasionally got close). If good faith, data-driven policy making is the ideal, Ajit Pai’s tenure was the exact opposite of that.

Most of Pai’s policies will, in time, be reversed. Though it won’t be immediate. Pai’s announcement today is likely intended to light a fire under the appointment of Trump ally Nathan Simington. With that creating a 2-2 partisan Commissioner tie, the GOP will likely work hard to block the appointment of a new Democratic Commissioner and boss, potentially gridlocking the FCC for years to come, preventing the reversal of unpopular Trump-era policies. As such, the Georgia run off elections will literally dictate whether the FCC can actually do its job. Ain’t “democracy” grand?

Pai himself will likely now either jump to a telecom-backed think tank (where he’ll be handsomely rewarded for his slavish devotion to unpopular telecom monopolies and fabricated data), or pursue post-FCC political ambitions, where he’ll need to be hopeful that angry Millennial voters have a very short memory.

Author: Karl Bode

Date: 2020-11-30

URL: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20201130/09160445788/ajit-pai-easily-most-controversial-fcc-boss-history-will-step-down-january-20.shtml


Comcast Tells Customers They May Lose Access To Comcast Channels If Comcast Can’t Agree With Comcast (2020-11-04) Comcast is informing the companys 20+ million cable TV customers that they may lose access to Comcast TV channels next month if Comcast cant come to some sort of agreement with Comcast Its an absurd twist on the already annoying practice of carriage disputes where customers pay the price for broadcasters and cable TV providers being unable to come to terms on new agreements after old ones expire U..
Time to Treat Broadband Like the Essential Service It Is (2020-11-02) Lets stop ignoring the obvious: broadband internet access service is a public utility and needs to be regulated as one American consumers agree A Consumer Reports survey from earlier this year found that four out of five 80 percent consumers believe broadband service is as important as water and electricity Indeed broadband has become the essential service in the daily lives of 21st century consum.. Time to Treat Broadband Like the Essential Service It Is
Senator Tillis Is Mad That Twitter Won’t Testify About Copyright Infringement; Since When Is Twitter A Piracy Problem? (2020-12-03) After writing about the MPA/RIAAs ever-shifting targets of who to freak out about regarding copyright infringement it helps to take each new target with a grain of salt They were mad about Napster then LimeWire then YouTube then cyberlockers/cloud storage And now apparently the target is random social media sites? Theres been plenty of attention recently over the RIAA turning its attention to back..
Your Slingbox Will Be A Useless Brick In A Few Years (2020-11-11) Remember the Slingbox? It was a piece of hardware by Dish subsidiary Sling Media that let users beam TV content from your home cable box to anywhere else Sling was public enemy number one among entrenched cable and broadcast industry gatekeepers because its products gasp not only made life easier on consumers but at one point integrated ad-skipping technology Back in 2013 the broadcast and cable..
Copia Gaming Hour: An Experiment In Getting Together (Virtually) To Play With The Future (2020-11-30) A few weeks ago we ran a little experiment with our first ever Copia Gaming Hour We brought together virtually a group of people to test run a fun future scenario planning game we created called Hindsight 2030 The game involved players dividing up into teams having to pick a target 2030 headline each table had a list of 3 to choose from out of a giant list we created and then create a narrative th..
UK Wing Of TikTok Swears It Isn’t Helping The Chinese Government Oppress Uighur Muslims (2020-11-10) China doesnt have a problem with censorship By that I mean the Chinese government sees no problem with its ever-expanding censorship of speech it doesnt like While China appears to have embraced capitalism it hasnt embraced the democratic accoutrements that normally accompany a move towards a more free society The government doesnt like to be criticized so it has engaged in several efforts to cens..
U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality. (2020-12-03) Last last week a report out of the UK topped the trending news items at Hacker News The report found that US broadband speeds – historically the poster child for mediocrity – jumped roughly 90% during the COVID-19 lockdowns The improvements werent consistent geographically and the report was quick to note that by and large the US remains relatively mediocre when it comes to broadband speeds in l.. U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality.
Daily Deal: The Ultimate Python And Artificial Intelligence Bundle (2020-11-06) The Ultimate Python And Artificial Intelligence Bundle has 9 courses to help you develop your programming and web development skills Courses cover Python Artificial Intelligence Keras PyTorch and more Its on sale for $40 Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt The products featured do not reflect endor..
Get 25% Off CIA: Collect It All, The Real CIA Training Game Recreated By Techdirt (2020-11-30) Get 25% off your copy of CIA: Collect It Allwith thecodeHOLIDAY2020 In 2018 we launched a Kickstarter to fund CIA: Collect It All our recreation of a real declassified card game that the CIA used to train analysts Today were running our second annual holiday sale offering you 25% off boxed copies of the game with the coupon code HOLIDAY2020 CIA: Collect It All is a tactical card game with over 170..
More Subsidies Alone Won’t Fix What Ails U.S. Broadband (2020-11-30) For decades US taxpayers have thrown countless subsidies tax breaks and other perks at entrenched broadband monopolies hoping that this time wed finally put that pesky digital divide to bed And while there certainly are countless communities that have been helped by taxpayer-funded projects there are just as many examples where this money was effectively wasted by unaccountable telecom monopolies .. More Subsidies Alone Won’t Fix What Ails U.S. Broadband