Former FCC Boss Ajit Pai Gets Handsomely Rewarded For Years Of Broadband Policy Falsehoods

from the whiplash-from-the-revolving-door dept

What's the career penalty for spending four straight years lying repeatedly about the illusory benefits of mindless telecom deregulation? None, apparently.

Surprising nobody, former FCC boss Ajit Pai and his giant goofy coffee mug are headed to private investment firm Searchlight Capital Partners, which invests in the telecom and other sectors. He's also been rewarded with a new gig at the American Enterprise Institute, where he'll be given a platform to spend another twenty years falsely claiming that lobotomizing U.S. telecom regulators, turning a blind eye to the perils of telecom monopolization, and generally ignoring consumer welfare results in telecom investment Utopia:

"As FCC chair, Pai justified his deregulatory agenda by using faulty data and taking credit for broadband deployments that were planned before he became chairman. Pai claimed that the Title II common-carrier regulations he repealed had prevented broadband-network investment, even though ISPs themselves told investors that wasn't true. He never raised the FCC's broadband-speed standard and claimed on his way out of the FCC that Americans still only need download speeds of 25Mbps and upload speeds of 3Mbps."

There was also that time that Pai blocked a law enforcement inquiry into the broadband industry using fake and dead people to generate artificial support for policies the public (and most objective experts) aggressively disagreed with. And there was also that time his office made up a DDOS attack to try and explain away the fact the agency website crashed in the wake of millions of pissed off John Oliver viewers. But again, Pai was mostly known for just making up data that supported policies that, with the occasional exception, largely just benefitted the industry's most dominant players.

Pai's entire policy schtick was that if you obliterate both state and federal oversight of regional telecom monopolies, magic happens. But while deregulation can sometimes help functional, healthy markets, there's twenty years of evidence showing that when you neuter oversight of Comcast and AT&T, these natural monopolies just double down on predatory behavior. It's why Americans pay some of the highest prices in the world for spotty, sluggish broadband and terrible customer support. While there's a large contingent of industry-allied folks and free marketers who want to pretend this is a debate, it isn't.

US broadband is mediocre in nearly every major broadband metric because our policy makers have spent twenty years crafting policies that prioritize one thing: the revenues of the biggest, most politically powerful telecom giants. That the revolving door undermines public trust and results in policies that coddle these monopolies won't even enter the conversation, since we stopped caring about that stuff years ago. After all, former FCC boss Michael Powell, also a huge fan of baseless claims that deregulation fixes everything, has enjoyed a long, healthy stint as the cable industry's top lobbyist without anybody batting an eyelash.

The same goes for a bipartisan assortment of other FCC officials, whether it's Mignon Clyburn (immediately left the FCC to go lobby to help T-Mobile's merger), Meredith Attwell Baker (wireless industry, Comcast), and countless others. And the U.S. press, ever desperate to cover complicated policy subjects from the view from nowhere, is more than happy to parrot the positions of these folks while either downplaying or ignoring any conflicts of interest.

When you can spend four years spreading obvious nonsense about the benefits of coddling natural monopolies and the only penalty is...a big wad of cash and a big platform to continues spreading falsehoods... it's not hard to understand why the U.S. telecom sector has spent the better part of two decades stuck in a state of perpetual, expensive, dysfunction.

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Filed Under: ajit pai, fcc, private equity, revolving door
Companies: searchlight capital partners


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