Court Tells FCC Its Attack On Tribal Broadband Subsidies Wasn't Based On The Facts

from the back-to-the-drawing-board dept

While FCC boss Ajit Pai is best known for ignoring the public and making shit up to dismantle net neutrality, his other policies have proven to be less sexy but just as terrible. From neutering plans to improve cable box competition to a wide variety of what are often senseless handouts to the industry's biggest players, most of Pai's policies are driving up costs for the rural Americans and small entrepreneurs he so breathlessly pledges fealty to.

One of Pai's biggest targets has been the FCC's Lifeline program, an effort started by Reagan and expanded by Bush that long enjoyed bipartisan support until the post-truth era rolled into town. Lifeline doles out a measly $9.25 per month subsidy that low-income homes can use to help pay a tiny fraction of their wireless, phone, or broadband bills (enrolled participants have to chose one). The FCC under former FCC boss Tom Wheeler had voted to expand the service to cover broadband connections, something Pai (ever a champion to the poor) voted down.

Some of the most frequently ignored in the battle for better connectivity are native populations and tribal areas. Under Chairman Ajit Pai's "leadership," the FCC voted 3-2 in late 2017 to eliminate a $25 additional Lifeline subsidy for low-income native populations on tribal land. As part of Pai's effort he also banned smaller mobile carriers from participating in the Lifeline program, a move opposed by even the larger companies (Verizon, AT&T) that stood to benefit.

The courts didn't much like Pai's attack on what, by any measure, was a pretty modest subsidy with historically bipartisan support. Back in August of 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stayed the FCC decision pending an appeal. That same court late last week issued a ruling (pdf, hat tip Ars Technica) reversing the FCC's decision, shoveling the entire affair back to the FCC to try again. The court ruling rather politely points out that the lion's share of the FCC's justifications for its attack on Lifeline appear to have been, for lack of a more technical term, pulled straight from the FCC's ass:

"The Commission's adoption of these two limitations was arbitrary and capricious by not providing a reasoned explanation for its change of policy that is supported by record evidence. In adopting the Tribal Facilities Requirement, the Commission's decision evinces no consideration of the exodus of facilities-based providers from the Tribal Lifeline program. Neither does it point to evidence that banning resellers from the Tribal Lifeline program would promote network buildout.

Nor does it analyze the impact of the facilities requirement on Tribal residents who currently rely on wireless resellers. Further, the Commission ignored that its decision is a fundamental change that adversely affects the access and affordability of service for residents of Tribal lands. Similarly, in adopting the Tribal Rural Limitation, the Commission's decision evinces no consideration of the impact on service access and affordability. Its decision does not examine wireless deployment data related to services to which most Tribal Lifeline recipients subscribe."

Again, that's the court effectively telling the FCC that it made a sweeping policy decision without looking at the actual evidence or listening to contrasting viewpoints. If you've followed along with the agency's facts-optional attacks on net neutrality, much of which is based on completely fabricated telecom sector lobbyist nonsense, none of this should be particularly surprising. Consumer advocates like the EFF were quick to wonder if other Pai-era FCC policy choices will come to be dismissed as similarly lacking in the actual evidence department:

Given the net neutrality fight (opening arguments for which began last Friday) hinges heavily on whether the FCC supported the repeal with hard data (it didn't), the courts may similarly find the FCC there too acted in ways that were "arbitrary and capricious" and detached from objective reality.

Filed Under: ajit pai, arbitrary and capricious, broadband subsidies, digital divide, fcc


Reader Comments

The First Word

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2019 @ 6:31am

    Guess Richard Bennett's going to have to do some serious damage control.

    Oxygen tanks might have to be involved...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 6:35am

    Gentlemen! This is the FCC you can't have facts in here!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 6:43am

    Ajit Pai where's loser dance video?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2019 @ 6:44am

    Just sell more things!

    Lifeline doles out a measly $9.25 per month subsidy that low-income homes can use to help pay a tiny fraction of their wireless, phone, or broadband bills (enrolled participants have to chose one). The FCC under former FCC boss Tom Wheeler had voted to expand the service to cover broadband connections, something Pai (ever a champion to the poor) voted down.

    Asked for comment, the GOP Senate chair heading up the committees on Tribes, low-income, homeless, and unprivileged families: " These kind of subsidies are useless today. It is simpler than ever to sell a stock yourself without high brokerage fees. All these residents have to do is sell some stock, or take business class instead of first class on their next flight they can easily replace this lost income."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 1:05pm

      Re: Just sell more things!

      and what do hey sell?? Smart people dont sell land.. And states have restricted them from creating MORE gambling casino's.. And buying trinkets to make more trinkets is F'ing expensive anymore.. Go buy yarn, and make 1 sweater, and it will cost you $40 materials, to Sell for how much?? Can you raise sheep, on their lands?? not without water.. Can you raise Cattle? barley...and without water?? Want an Indian head dress?? full of chicken feathers?? if the coyotes dont eat the chickens.. How about starting a wildlife hunting expedition...Without water?? and even if they did, WE WOULD REMOVE all the money we GIVE THEM, because they made money.. If they dig for metals, can you guess what would happen?? Corps would jump on them and have the WHOLE reservation MOVED, so that the CORP could make more money..(been done before).

      The person that wrote your comment has no history in WHAT has happened, what could happen, and what DOES happen..

      Unless you are willing to DO THE JOB of protecting them, and their lands, and helping improve those....YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2019 @ 7:04am

    "The Commission's adoption of these two limitations was arbitrary and capricious by not providing a reasoned explanation for its change of policy that is supported by record evidence. "

    ... this sounds just like an arbitrary & capricious decision by the court.

    All regulatory agencies routinely make arbitrary and capricious decisions -- that's why they exist as independent arbiters

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 8:04am

    Court Tells FCC Its Attack On Tribal Broadband Subsidies Wasn't Based On The Facts

    In other news, water is wet and the Pope is Catholic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 8:06am

    How Adorable...

    ...thinking that "Facts" have any value to the FCC - or any other government agency.

    The usage of "Facts" died along with "Truth" quite a while ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 8:56am

    The court is wrong. The FCC action WAS based on facts. They just happened to be the alternative facts that Pai and his owners preferred.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 10:14am

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20151022/09232532594/fcc-has-to-remind-isps-not-to-spend-taxpayer- subsidies-booze-trips-to-disney-world.shtml

    Sandwich Isles Communications, collected $242,489,940 from the USF over a decade, purportedly to provide telecom service to just 3,659 rural customers. Instead, company owner Albert Hee used taxpayer money for everything from massages to trips to Disney World:

    "For example, the companies apparently paid $96,000 so that Hee could receive two-hour massages twice a week; $119,909 for personal expenses, including family trips to Disney World, Tahiti, France, and Switzerland and a four-day family vacation at the Mauna Lani resort; $736,900 for college tuition and housing expenses for Hee’s three children; $1,300,000 for a home in Santa Clara, California for his children’s use as college housing; and $1,676,685 in wages and fringe benefits for his wife and three children."

    Meanwhile, Native Americans and other poor are the real drain on the USF here... :rolleyes:

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2019 @ 5:34am

    Are these the same people shouting about illegal immigration?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    divesh43 (profile), 6 Feb 2019 @ 7:22am

    Awesome work

    Many people choose to go other countries for pursuing higher education and to make themselves successful in education. In case of medical studies China is considered the best for providing standard and quality education. As China medical universities are one of the top ranking unversities in the world if one searches for best medical universities. For students who are interested in medical studies and want to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses can refer to China medical universities. But in case if you want to choose one of the top most medical university in China only. In that case one can refer to Nanjing university. Here are the some reasons which would help you to know more about this university.Cheap Education System – Nanjing university offers the medical courses in a reasonable budget. Like it has less fess as compared to another medical universities. They charge almost half of the fees as compared to universities in USA, UK and other developed countries. The fees is around 11000 RBM at the time of admission.For more information you can visit on : https://www.jagvimal.com/why-is-nanjing-university-the-best-chinese-university-for-medical-studies /

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    divesh43 (profile), 6 Feb 2019 @ 7:44am

    great work

    Indeed, it sounds like how such minor things can has such an incredible impact on the consumptions if we put it on a month to month graph of uses we can undoubtedly find that the transportation cost is taking 1/fourth of your month to month use. In china, the transportation is extremely modest as now there are numerous transports that run completely on power and may require 1 or 2 RMB to venture out from one station to the last stop.

    The taxi charges are additionally very reasonable, in the waterfront cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen, the cost is high. Transports have diverse courses that nearly cover everywhere throughout the city, where you can travel effectively. The normal charge for a taxi begins from 6 to 8 RMB per kilometer. If you are examining in china a large part of the abroad students will in general purchase a vehicle the thing to be pounded into the psyches is that the administration of china is extremely strict towards anybody having any sort of illicit methodology towards anything while their stay in china, under such conditions the legislature of china has enabled the abroad students to possess an E-bicycle as it doesn’t requires any ruler of driving permit and is shabby too. for more information visit on :

    https://www.jagvimal.com/how-to-control-your-expenses-for-study-mbbs-in-china/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dubai city tour (profile), 12 May 2019 @ 10:56pm

    Well shared

    I think the court was wrong. their verdict was not good by the way.

    Thanks for sharing it.
    Love from Dubai city tour
    http://www.busrentdubai.ae/dubai-city-tour/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rohit kumar (profile), 13 Jul 2019 @ 2:06pm

    Thanks

    Thanks for writing this useful article keep writing you are a great author thanks a lot
    https://fullhindi.com/english-picture-hindi-mai/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.