FCC Boss 'Jokes' About Being A 'Verizon Puppet' At Tone Deaf Industry Gala

from the what's-a-little-regulatory-capture-among-friends? dept

As we’ve well-documented, Trump’s FCC is currently under fire for not only gutting net neutrality, but for giving a crash course in what regulatory capture looks like. In just a short period of time the agency has moved to protect cable’s monopoly over the cable box, gut media consolidation rules exclusively for the benefit of Sinclair broadcasting, protect prison phone monoplies, weaken broadband deployment metrics, kill broadband funding for the poor, and make it easier for business broadband monopolies to hamstring competitors and keep prices absurdly high.

That said, every year like clockwork, the FCC holds its “telecom prom” in Washington DC. It’s traditionally an event where telecom industry executives, lobbyists, FCC staffers, consumer advocates and policy wonks all have a much-needed laugh and blow off steam. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to line up to kiss the ring in the hopes of impacting future policy. Normally this sector shindig barely makes a blip on the media radar. But given the FCC’s decision to continually give consumers the policy equivalent of a massive middle finger throughout 2017, this year’s event took on a notably different tone.

Unsurprisingly, FCC staffers clearly thought this year’s event was a great opportunity to make a few jokes about Pai’s reputation as a walking rubber stamp for the telecom sector. After all, a little self-deprecation and ribbing has been part of the proceeding for years. But apparently, nobody told FCC staff writers that parody, satire and other forms of humor are supposed to be notably different from the reality you’re lampooning.

After making numerous jokes about how he was “colluding” with industry giants like Sinclair broadcasting (you can watch a video of Pai’s presentation here), Pai (a Verizon regulatory lawyer from 2001 to 2003) went so far as to present a video he made with Verizon exec Kathy Grillo. In it, Pai and Grillo engage in an adorable little skit where they collude to install Pai as a “puppet” chairman of the FCC at Verizon HQ back in 2003:

Verizon executive: “As you know, the FCC is captured by industry. But we think it’s not captured enough. We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman. Think Manchurian Candidate.”

Ajit Pai: “That sounds awesome.”

Verizon executive: “I know, right? There are only two problems. First, this is going to take 14 years to incubate. We need to find someone smart, young, ambitious, but dorky enough to throw the scent off.”

Ajit Pai: “Hello.”

Verizon executive: “So you will do it?”

Ajit Pai: “Absolutely. But you said there was another issue?”

Verizon executive: We need to find a Republican who can win the presidency in 2016 to appoint you FCC chairman. I think our best bet is an outsider, but I have no idea who that would be. If only somebody can give us a sign.

Get it? Get it? The joke is that Pai, who used to work for Verizon, now works at the FCC to largely do Verizon’s bidding, whether that’s supporting the erosion of consumer broadband privacy rules or gutting net neutrality. The problem of course is that this “joke” is predominately true. If you dig back through Pai’s record over the years as boss and as vanilla FCC Chairman, you’d be hard pressed to find a single time he stood up to Verizon or AT&T on any issue. That loyalty has even extended to voting down attempts to hold AT&T accountable for the outright defrauding of its own customers. Too funny!

Pai of course then proceeded to make several zingers that make light of concerns that he’s gutting decades old media consolidation restrictions solely to the benefit of Sinclair broadcasting:

“People ask me, ‘what keeps you up at night?’ and it’s actually pretty easy: the thought of the FCC having to resolve a retransmission dispute between Verizon and Sinclair,” Pai said. “I mean, how do you choose between a longtime love and your newfound crush?”

Oh my! A revolving door regulator making light of the fact he can’t decide which giant company he should mindlessly placate is utterly hilarious! Where oh where do you get your material from?

I’m sure there will be plenty of folks that try to argue that this isn’t a big deal because they were just making a joke. But the destruction of net neutrality and the massive, negative impact it will have is decidedly unfunny. The FCC’s refusal to help law enforcement discover who’s behind the massive fraud and identity theft that occurred on the agency website is decidedly unfunny. The fact that the current FCC is the tech policy equivalent of a giant middle finger to consumers, startups, the poor and the health of the internet couldn’t be any less funny. The closest it might get is absurdist.

There’s healthy debate and ribbing over policy and then there’s what the Ajit Pai’s FCC is up to: a massive, wholesale dismantling of nearly all oversight of one of the least competitive and least liked duopolies in American industry. Followed by petty gloating and Orwellian missives about how giving a blanket policy handout to Comcast somehow restores internet freedom. We really haven’t seen public anger at tech policy on this scale since SOPA, and that anger is likely to triple once the real-world impact of these protectionist policies begin to be truly felt over the next few years.

As we noted when the FCC tried to hide its plan behind the Thanksgiving holiday, these folks appear to have zero awareness of the massive backlash these extremist policies are fermenting (especially among Millennial voters). So while it’s kind of adorable the FCC thinks regulatory capture and corruption are such a fucking hoot, we’ll have to see if folks like Pai are still laughing in a few years when their obvious post-FCC political aspirations run face-first into those who remember this attack on net neutrality — and the fact that 2017 sure as shit wasn’t anything to laugh about.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: verizon

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “FCC Boss 'Jokes' About Being A 'Verizon Puppet' At Tone Deaf Industry Gala”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Reagan’s joke about “outlawing Russia–we start bombing in five minutes” was funny, because every sane person could that he WASN’T BOMBING. Even the most moronic reporters could have figured out the joke in (5 minutes + synapse-reaction time). Then it was especially funny, because we found out how many political pundits didn’t live within 12 time zones of reality. Of course, any U.S. president since Johnson could have done the same thing–nobody in their right mind would either see any point to initiating a war with Russia, or imagine that anyone that insane would have been elected.

And so, maybe somewhere sometime Pai took a different position from the Verizon lobby-line, for a reason other than “hey, good idea, but I don’t think we can cram that down the public’s throat far enough yet.” And maybe the other folk in the office know. Maybe even the congresscritters who are being lobbied by Verizon know. But it hasn’t hit the tech press yet: Even Andrew Orlowski at The Reg, who seems to be a paid shill for the Telecom giants, hasn’t ever criticized Pai for any such thing.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…because every sane person…

Context is everything. For the Russians the context was that Reagan had recently announced plans to deploy Pershing II nuclear-capable missiles to West Germany. Launched from road-mobile vehicles, making the launch sites very hard to find, and only six to eight minutes flight time to Moscow. Consider how the US reacted to missiles in Cuba.

Reagan had also announced development of the Strategic Defense Initiative, which would allow the US to launch missiles against the USSR without fear of retaliation. They thought that a US first strike on the Soviet Union was imminent. Leading to Operation RYAN to find out Reagan’s intentions.

When Reagan made his bombing joke, the Soviet Far East Army was placed on alert and the the alert was not withdrawn until 30 minutes later.

Reagan didn’t want to start a war, but he was clueless about the consequences of his actions. Pai will get his cushy revolving door industry job/payout regardless, so he just doesn’t care.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Reagan’s joke about “outlawing Russia–we start bombing in five minutes” was funny, because every sane person could that he WASN’T BOMBING”

It wasn’t particularly funny, and in very poor taste considering the geopolitical climate at the time. Plus, most importantly, if you think that some of the people in the room took it the wrong way, imagine how it was reported outside of the US in places that had a reason to spin it as a serious comment.

This is something to remember about the modern world – everything gets reported outside of your intended audience. Sure, it was a “joke”, but it was a joke that caused actual military response (though, thankfully, not one that resulted in military action).

“Of course, any U.S. president since Johnson could have done the same thing–nobody in their right mind would either see any point to initiating a war with Russia, or imagine that anyone that insane would have been elected.”

Erm, have you looked at who’s in the White House right now? He’s literally trying to antagonise North Korea over Twitter.

“Even Andrew Orlowski at The Reg, who seems to be a paid shill for the Telecom giants”

He’s definitely a paid troll, although I’m not sure if that’s by anyone in telecoms, the recording industry or just lulz from his own salary. But, there’s no way anyone gets so many things so regularly wrong in such inflammatory ways (often with comments disabled to avoid corrections) by accident.

Anonymous Coward says:

I give them credit for prescience!

You actually only make Pai and Verizon look good for being able to so accurately predict the future. — EVEN IF they conspired to bring that about, it’s re-assuring to me these days sheerly for that someone has brains and resolve!

As for the substance, if any: you’re simply affirming what those whom you jeer at as “conspiracy kooks” state: the system is controlled to a long-term plan. — And that means ALL corporations, including your precious Google. — I don’t see how you keep from going to the next logical step, yet I’m sure you WON’T soon be following up with the implications of Google’s start-up being funded by the CIA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I give them credit for prescience!

That’s not really surprising. out_of_the_blue’s sole purpose is to parrot the antithetical counterpoint to whatever article is being posted, no matter how ridiculous, self-destructive, or contradictory.

To whit: he complained on an article criticizing Harvey Weinstein about how Techdirt never criticizes the sleaze and power in Hollywood… while he bitches in other articles that Techdirt is anti-MPAA and anti-Hollywood.

DMCA vote the dumbnugget and move on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I give them credit for prescience!

That much was obvious. out_of_the_blue won’t admit it, but his arguments and theses are very much in support of increased government surveillance and corporatism. Because that’s what the RIAA/MPAA want, and have demanded for years. It’s why MPAA insisted that no matter what happens, they want immunity from net neutrality so they can inject their surveillance programs everywhere, which is in turn why out_of_the_blue, MyNameHere and Richard Bennett are against net neutrality.

If breathing oxygen were copyrighted and/or patented tomorrow out_of_the_blue would be out there, demanding that everyone surgically weld their lips to a phallus. Preferably Shiva Ayyadurai-flavored.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

Verizon and Pai handed every state everything they needed to shut them down, shut them down hard!!!

Way to go Team V…

Every state AG will be penning out arrest warrants and asset seizures taking everything away from Pai and Verizon for their racketeering, collusion, RICO violations, any and every little charge that can be found and applied, will be applied, by the states.

All of those state Senators and Representatives that have been holding their asses open for the Telecom industry will be squeezing things off at the base, pretty much assuring that their collective schlongs will require amputation and cauterization.

Big V and Pai will have NO power after the states attorneys arrest those state level congress critters caught with their hands, mouths and asses on the remains of the Telecom industry’s vestigial sexual organs.

That our Federal level senators and representatives will be caught in the light doing what they’ve done best, fluffing and tweaking to keep the industry leaders hard in their respective place is riotously funny.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

Re: Re: Verizon and Pai handed every state everything they needed to shut them down, shut them down hard!!!

When it is a multitude of telecom, cable and other industry giants, all doing the same thing to get the same illegal action pushed through, it damned well IS RICO.

Working together for the same criminal results, equals RICO act violation.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Verizon and Pai handed every state everything they needed to shut them down, shut them down hard!!!

Here’s the article I suspect he(?) was referencing. Have you read it?

If, having read that article and applied what it explains to the situation you’re observing, you still think it’s RICO – in that case, fine, and I might well be interested in a detailed, point-by-point explanation of exactly how the RICO criteria laid out in that article are satisfied in the case at hand. (Such an explanation would also be the first step towards getting an actual RICO action set in motion, I suspect.)

Given how rare actual RICO-applicable cases are, however, I’m not likely to hold my breath waiting.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Wait until he hamstrings the FCC to being worthless… and then they break up with him.

Once they have everything they ever wished for & the FCC itself banning itself from doing anything… why keep any promises of a cushy future?

If he suddenly does a 180, he has to admit he lied to benefit corporate masters.
He’ll have to admit he took orders that screwed consumers.
He’ll have to admit that the corporations have bought the best influence for fairly cheap prices.
Of course he’ll have to face being called fake news because he will be hard pressed to find any news corp willing to talk to him or put him on the air & even if he gets on the air a large conglomerate who owns a whole buncha media now can preempt it and run a repeat of a Trump rally.

Here is the problem with doing shadowy deals & laughing at the public outrage over tone deaf jokes… the joke is on you Mr. Pai. You are right where they want consumers… screwed. Even if you manage to out their buying the outcome they wanted… you know you still go to jail no matter the outcome. I can’t wait until they get what they want & toss you aside like the GOP disavows members caught with a live boy.

Daniel Audy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As much as I would like to see him get his just desserts he will almost certainly land a cushy job with Verizon or ATT. The cost of a comfortable salary doesn’t really hit their bottom line for ‘lobbying’ and ensures that future flunkies know that they will be paid out without ever having to make an agreement that could be proven in court.

Bruce C. says:

Is it possible...

that Commissioner Pai is so clueless that he doesn’t even realize how far the industry has penetrated into his reactor core? Could he believe that his little skit was actually parody?

Didn’t think so. So not only is he turning the FCC over to the industry it’s supposed to regulate, he’s GLOATING about it.

bobmorning (profile) says:

Where the hell is the ethics officer

I am a Fed, but not working for the FCC. This behavior is so over the top that I don’t know where to start. We are supposed to avoid any situations where it might even be “perceived” as a conflict of interest.

In my agency you would be walked out the door for such a stunt. I am speechless and he brings great embarrassment and shame to those of us trying to do the right thing and serve the public in a cost efficient and above board manner.

We would even be allowed to attend such an industry event if we had such a contentious issue involving our agency’s mission if invited.

The fact they are making no bones about the fact that they are basically doing “quid pro quo” should ring alarms bells with the agency IG and OMB watchdogs.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...