Deven Alexis / Flickr Why Ajit Pai Cancelled his Appearance...
Deven Alexis / Flickr

Trump’s choice to dismantle net neutrality regulations, Chairman Ajit Pai, is losing one of his dubious cronies. The Wall Street Journal reports that Elizabeth Ann Pierce, former CEO of Alaska telecommunications, has been arrested on allegations she forged contracts to the tune of $250 million.

Elizabeth Ann Pierce, who served as CEO of Quintillion Networks LLC, allegedly convinced two investment companies that the firm had secured contracts for a high-speed fiber-optic system that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue, the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and FBI said Thursday. The system was pitched as one that would provide service in Alaska and connect it to the lower 48 states, authorities said.

“As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in prepared remarks. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counterparty signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.”

The Verge gives a nice rundown of Ms. Pierce’s bonafides.

Pierce was tapped by Pai in April of last year to be the chair of the BDAC, which he formed “to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access, or broadband, by reducing and removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.”According to broadband industry news and advocacy website Stop the Cap, Pierce may have gotten on Pai’s radar by complaining about how cumbersome it was to bring internet access to parts of the country like Alaska.

As the Daily Beast reported back in August, Ajit Pai had loaded the “Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) that he had created with telecom executives. He did this in spite of other, more qualified city officials being ready, willing and able to take up the purported task of the committee. As Santa Monica city worker Gary Carter, a man who has overseen one of the oldest municipal broadband networks in America, found out.

“When I called [the FCC] to check on the status of the BDAC selection process [earlier this year] and identified myself as an employee from the City of Santa Monica, the gentleman on the phone laughed hysterically,” Carter said. “At first I didn’t get the joke. When I saw the appointees for the municipal working group—only three out of 24 positions were from local government—I got the joke.”

The FCC had no comment other than to say they were made aware of the incident. But the interaction underscores what Liccardo now faces as one of the only city representatives on the committee.

“It’s not lost on us that among the 30-odd members of the BDAC, only two represent local government,” Liccardo said. “We’ll see where things go in the weeks ahead, but it’s fair to say the footprints are in the snow.”

Only the “best people,” so that America can start “winning” again.

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