Senator wants a piece of Pai: FCC boss blasted for ripping up schools, libraries internet report

Ajit gets a Florida-style full Nelson after study scrapped

Ajit Pai
Watchdog supremo ... Ajit Pai

US FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is facing criticism for his decision to axe a study on improving internet connections at public schools and libraries.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) said in a letter to Pai on Wednesday that the decision to rescind the "E‑Rate Modernization Report" was "deeply disturbing."

"Your unilateral decision last week to quash a staff report providing an analysis and progress report of the agency's E‑Rate modernization efforts shows a troubling disinterest in the facts," Nelson wrote.

The report [PDF] Nelson refers to was issued in January just days before the end of outgoing chairman Tom Wheeler's term. It described the progress being made in efforts to reform the E‑Rate program, which provides low-cost broadband internet service to schools and libraries, to focus on Wi‑Fi and fiber broadband connectivity.

"Though many reforms have only been fully implemented for one funding year, available data already demonstrates progress toward the Commission's goals of expanding support for Wi‑Fi, connecting all schools to fiber, and ensuring financial stability," the report concludes.

The E-Rate Modernization Report was among a handful of reports and orders Pai wiped out last week when he moved to eliminate what he referred to as "midnight regulations" made by Wheeler's team.

"In some cases, Commissioners were given no advance notice whatsoever of these midnight regulations. In other cases, they were issued over the objection of two of the four Commissioners," Pai said [PDF].

"And in all cases, their release ran contrary to the wishes expressed by the leadership of our congressional oversight committees. These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of Commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward."

Nelson, however, worries Pai may be trying to cover up progress on the E‑Rate program to justify cuts later.

"The fact that you directed three bureaus to issue a formal order to retract, set aside, and rescind a staff report was extraordinary. You have also declared the report was 'controversial' and made clear it would have no 'effect or meaning going forward'," the senator wrote.

"Such actions are deeply disturbing to our nation's schools and libraries and those of us in Congress who are their allies in support of the E‑Rate program." ®


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