In Departing Statement, FCC Boss Ajit Pai Pretends He 'Served The People'
from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
Ajit Pai’s tenure wasn’t devoid of value. He arguably oversaw some decent moves that will bring more spectrum to market (albeit not without some caveats and casualties), and he implemented the nation’s first suicide hotline (988). But by and large it’s pretty hard to not see Pai’s tenure as a giant middle finger to consumer welfare, and a four year, sustained ass kissing for the nation’s biggest telecom monopolies.
In his departing statement, of course, Pai gushes about what an honor it was to serve the “American people”:
“Serving the American people as Chairman of the FCC has been the greatest honor of my professional life. Over the past four years, we have delivered results for the American people, from narrowing the digital divide to advancing American leadership in 5G, from protecting consumers and national security to keeping Americans connected during the pandemic, from modernizing our media rules to making the agency more transparent and nimble. It has been a privilege to lead the agency over its most productive period in recent history.”
That is, if you’ve paid even the slightest bit of attention to Pai’s tenure, a paragraph of delusion. US 5G is a disappointing mess. “Modernized” media rules is a misnomer for “gutting decades of media consolidation rules with bipartisan support.” Pai’s purported adoration of the American public is the biggest lie of all, given he spent most of his tenure either ignoring them or making protecting them far more difficult. Often with a total disregard for factual data, or the will of the actual public.
The shining example of this was Pai’s net neutrality repeal, which not only killed net neutrality rules, but the agency’s ability to hold telecom giants accountable for much of anything. The repeal took the consumer protection authority of an agency crafted to police telecom, and shoveled it to the FTC — which lacks the resources or authority to do the job (which is precisely why the industry wanted this to happen). As an additional gift to monopolies, Pai’s repeal even tried to ban states from being able to protect consumers as well, something only thwarted because the courts told him his agency lacked the authority.
To force this hugely unpopular proposal through, Pai lied repeatedly about net neutrality’s impact, claiming the modest rules (by international standards) had demolished telecom sector investment. Once repealed, Pai lied just as often about how the repeal had resulted in a huge spike in investment (it hadn’t). When reporters contacted Pai’s FCC to fact check the agency’s dodgy numbers, they were literally directed to telecom lobbyists who’d provided the false data. Reporters who asked tough questions were effectively blocklisted during Pai’s tenure.
Pai’s office also blocked law enforcement inquiries into the broadband industry’s (and Trumpland’s) use of fake and dead people to provide bogus public support for unpopular policies. And when genuine, pissed off, John Oliver viewers wrote to the FCC to complain, swamping the FCC website, FOIA data revealed that Pai’s office repeatedly lied and claimed it had been the victim of a DDOS attack. The entire affair culminated in Pai dancing with a pizzagate conspiracy theorist in a video the internet would like to forget.
As such Pai’s tenure wasn’t just pockmarked by bad data and bad policy, it was, as is custom for the Trump era, a shining example of trolling as a government policy, where policymakers take an active enjoyment in being insufferable and hostile. Hostile to the press. Hostile to the public. Hostile to experts and expert data, especially if those experts question entrenched industry ideology or rampant US monopolization.
There’s a laundry list of other examples of Pai’s disdain for the public welfare and market health, including Pai’s efforts to utterly dismantle decades-old (and bipartisan) media consolidation rules just so disinformation giants like Sinclair Broadcasting could get ever larger. He flubbed hurricane disaster responses, mindlessly rubber stamped giant, job and competition killing mergers, undermined his own agency’s efforts to combat prison telco monopoly price gouging, refused to seriously tackle location data abuse scandals, turned a blind eye while Verizon throttled firefighters during a crisis, and so much more.
So if by “served the American public” you mean ignored them completely and actively made it harder to protect them, sure. Pai now stumbles off to work either in telecom, or at some telecom-funded think tank where he’ll spend the next few decades coasting on an illusory reputation as a “free market champion” and noble destroyer of “burdensome regulation,” hopeful folks forget or ignore that his primary agenda was, fairly uniformly, to act as an apologist for, and denier of, American monopolization and the laundry list of obvious problems it creates.