WASHINGTON — In a flurry of items released today, the Federal Communications Commission under new chairman Ajit Pai curtailed several key consumer-protection orders, reports and proceedings his predecessor, Tom Wheeler, put in place.
The items adversely affected include the modernization of the Lifeline fund to support broadband access for low-income families, an inquiry into so-called zero-rating plans by internet service providers, agency guidance to keep in check broadcast media consolidation, and rules improving political-advertising transparency.
Today’s decisions were released by FCC bureaus under Pai’s apparent direction and involved no public proceeding or input from the bipartisan members of the agency’s commission.
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
"With today’s action, Chairman Pai is undoing important work that promised to bring the benefits of broadband to low-income families, to put vertically integrated ISPs on notice against prioritizing their own content, and to send a message to broadcasters that covert consolidation won’t be tolerated.
“With these strong-arm tactics, Chairman Pai is showing his true stripes. The public wants an FCC that helps people. Instead, it got one that does favors for the powerful corporations its chairman used to work for.
“This Friday-afternoon release is a phenomenally hypocritical maneuver in light of comments Chairman Pai made earlier this week pledging increased transparency at the agency. It took him just two days to break that promise.
“Today, Pai followed President Trump’s lead by issuing his own types of executive orders, which undermine the democratic process, strip consumers of safeguards and rob millions of the neediest families of the help they need to bridge the digital divide.”