Democratic leadership in Congress tells FCC’s Ajit Pai to buckle up, time for a performance review

PBS NewsHour / YouTube FCC chair Ajit Pai explains why...
PBS NewsHour / YouTube

Ajit Pai’s tenure as chair of Trump’s FCC has been smooth sailing, in that he has had a corrupt Republican majority in the legislative branch of our government. America has had a very rocky experience, as Pai has used his position to further deregulate the already mostly unregulated telecom marketplace while attacking the democratic expansion of communications in our country. When Pai announced the FCC’s plans to rollback net neutrality protections, the comment period became a big disaster, with Pai lying to the public and Congress about the nature of those comments. The reason for Pai’s deception seems to have been, in convoluting the discussion around the comment period on net neutrality, Pai didn’t have to respond to the majority of Americans who did not want to see Pai and his FCC strip away consumer protections.

Well, the legislative branch is no longer completely controlled by a group of politicians living at the bottom of a big business swamp. With the Democratic Party’s sweeping victories this November, the House of Representatives is now under control of various representatives with all kinds of questions about how the government has been running for the past couple of years. Ajit Pai’s FCC is now under that magnifying glass as Democratic reps. Frank Pallone (NJ) and Mike Doyle (PA) sent a letter to Pai voicing some of their concerns.

With the start of 116th Congress, the Committee will reassume its traditional role of oversight to ensure that the agencies under its jurisdiction are acting in the best interest of the public and consistent with their legislative authority. Given your role as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it is your responsibility to make certain the Commission performs its duties according to those standards.

When you were nominated for the chairmanship almost two years ago, we shared some thoughts on how to achieve success at managing the FCC. While much has changed during that time, our advice to you remains the same-to be responsive to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle; to drive towards consensus on all major FCC actions; and to respect the invaluable expertise of the career staff, which gives the FCC the credibility it needs to carry out its regulatory mission. Unfortunately, this has not happened.

One of the great things about this letter is that Rep. Mike Doyle is now the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Rep. Doyle wants Pai to know that Pai’s free ride is over.

Not only have you have failed on numerous occasions to provide Democratic members of this Committee with responses to their inquiries, 1 you have also repeatedly denied or delayed responding to legitimate information requests from the public about agency operations. These actions have denied the public of a full and fair understanding of how the FCC under your leadership has arrived at public policy decisions that impact Americans every day in communities across the country.

According to Gizmodo, Rep. Doyle also announced hearings for the subcommittee, starting on Thursday, that will include interviews with “former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, now of the Brookings Institution; Jessica Gonzales, senior counsel at Free Press; Mozilla Chief Operating Officer Denelle Dixon; and Michael Powell, president and CEO of the Internet & Television Association, which represents a large swath of the telecom industry.”

Reps. Doyle and Pallone’s letter to Pai includes an attached series of questions for the FCC chairman to answer—all performance review related. Questions for Ajit Pai to answer include:

2.    Separately for each of the bureaus or offices above, categorize the pending items by type (for instance, license application, license renewal, etc.) and then within each category, list each item and identify the name of the petitioner or licensee that initiated the item, if any, and the length of time the item has been pending.
3.    According to the agency’s website, the FCC receives thousands of informal complaints each week. Provide the total number of consumer complaints the FCC received in 2017 and 2018. In addition, provide the number of consumer complaints the FCC has received in the following categories in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019:

Now, most people do not enjoy performance reviews but if you are truly incompetent and/or corrupt at your job, performance reviews probably feel a lot more like a biblical reckoning. And in Pai’s case, it should be.

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