FCC chief Ajit Pai speaks during a 2015 hearing on net neutrality.

FCC chief Ajit Pai speaks during a 2015 hearing on net neutrality. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Trump's FCC Chief Wastes No Time Changing Agency Direction

Flurry of new rules draws counter-arguments from Obama appointee.

In his first 10 days as head of the Federal Communications Commission, former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai issued a slew of new rules and declarations, prompting the lone Democrat on the five-member commission (currently with two vacancies) to issue dissents.

On Friday, Pai revoked what he called Obama-era “midnight regulations” and reports released in that administration’s final days which he deemed controversial. “In some cases, commissioners were given no advance notice whatsoever of these midnight regulations. In other cases, they were issued over the objection of two of the four commissioners,” said Pai, who was named to the commission in 2012 and hence was able to begin his role as commissioner immediately. “And in all cases, their release ran contrary to the wishes expressed by the leadership of our congressional oversight committees. These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward.”

He was rebutted in a public statement by Mignon Clyburn, the lone Democrat on the FCC since the departure of Chairman Tom Wheeler just before President Trump was inaugurated. “Today is apparently ‘take out the trash day,’ ” she said, referring to the Washington tactic of releasing negative or controversial news on a Friday in hopes that fewer news consumers notice. “Today multiple bureaus retract—without a shred of explanation—several items released under the previous administration that focus on competition, consumer protection, cybersecurity and other issues core to the FCC’s mission. In the past, then-Commissioner Pai was critical of the agency majority for not providing sufficient reasoning behind its decisions…It is a basic principle of administrative procedure that actions must be accompanied by reasons for that action, else that action is unlawful.” She said her office asked for more than two days to review the changes but was rebuffed.

In another change, Pai announced that the agency was ending its investigation into wireless carriers’ offerings of free data, a step some fear could alter the FCC’s recent sympathy to the consumer concept of Internet neutrality by allowing major corporations special access. “These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace,” he said. “Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”

Pai also announced, in the name of transparency, that he would give commissioners more advance notice of votes to be taken at coming FCC open meetings. He also rescinded permission of nine broadband companies to work within a federal subsidy program for needy customers.

Clyburn again pounced. “Today, the agency reverses course on providing more competition and consumer choice for Lifeline customers. Rather than working to close the digital divide, this action widens the gap,” she said. “By eliminating the designations of nine entities to provide Lifeline broadband service, the bureau has substantially undermined businesses who had begun relying on those designations,” among them many minority-owned business and those serving tribal lands, she said.

Pai’s transparency move drew praise from three Republican senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. "I applaud Chairman Pai for beginning the practice of making public the content of items intended to be voted on at FCC Open Meetings,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.  After leading an investigation last year into the FCC’s manipulation of information in advance of open meetings, I believe that a more transparent FCC will be more credible and more accountable. I am pleased that the new leadership is correcting this long-recognized process flaw.” 

But Pai’s foray into altering the commission’s approach to net neutrality prompted criticism from committee member Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. “It is clear that net neutrality is public enemy No. 1 for Chairman Pai, and he is starting his campaign by protecting harmful zero-rating plans,” he said, characterizing such plans as allowing corporate Internet service providers to “favor their own content while putting everyone else at a competitive disadvantage.”

Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote an op-ed in Newsweek last month arguing that “Pai takes the helm at a time when the country is at its most divided and animosity towards Washington D.C. is at its highest. Many Americans do not believe the government has been listening to them. The FCC is no exception. It has a sad history of being captured by the very industries it is supposed to regulate, and an equally sad history of ignoring grassroots public opinion.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.