Former Head Of Ajit Pai's Broadband Advisory Council Is Headed To Prison For Fraud
from the ill-communication dept
In 2017, FCC head Ajit Pai came under fire for filling a new “Broadband Deployment Advisory Council” (BDAC) task force with oodles of industry representatives, but few if any consumer representatives or local town or city officials. Not too surprisingly the panel saw a significant amount of controversy, several protest resignations, and the arrest of a one-time panel chair for fraud, but the panel itself never actually accomplished much of anything to address the problem it was created for.
This week more data emerged on the details behind the arrest of Pai’s former council head Elizabeth Ann Pierce. Pierce, the former CEO of Alaskan telecom provider Quintillion, is headed to jail after a pretty elaborate fraud scheme that bilked numerous investors out of some significant cash. Pierce effectively conned numerous parties out of millions by forging sales contracts, used a significant chunk of the money for “personal expenses,” then hid the scope of the fraud from her own colleagues and other Quintillion executives:
“Between May 2015 and July 2017, Pierce engaged in a scheme to induce two New York-based investment companies to provide more than $270 million to construct the Quintillion System by providing them with eight forged broadband capacity sales contracts and related order forms under which Quintillion would obtain guaranteed revenue once the Quintillion System was built (the “Fake Revenue Agreements”).
Under the Fake Revenue Agreements, four telecommunications services companies appeared to have made binding commitments to purchase specific wholesale quantities of capacity from Quintillion at specified prices. The cumulative value of the Fake Revenue Agreements was approximately $1 billion over the life of the Fake Revenue Agreements. In reality, the Fake Revenue Agreements were completely worthless because Pierce had forged the counterparties’ signatures.”
Just the person you want leading a council on fixing the broken US telecom sector, right?
Again, the council Pierce headed was supposed to help fix the broken US broadband sector and extend service to less connected areas, but hasn’t done much of anything. And the things the council has recommended teeter toward the absurd: like the time it suggested that companies like Google, Netflix, and Facebook pay a “tax” to ISPs to fund the broadband network investment telecom monopolies routinely refuse to do themselves (such a tax has been on AT&T’s policy wishlist for years, and is effectively what really began the entire net neutrality debate more than a decade ago).
In some areas, Pai’s FCC tenure has been ruthlessly efficient at neutering FCC oversight of natural telecom monopolies and giving those monopolies absolutely everything they want. In other instances it’s been plagued with an almost preternatural ability for absurd controversy, incompetence, and bizarre missteps. A commission tasked with doing something it refuses to do, headed by somebody now going to prison for fraud, certainly falls into the latter camp.