Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement today on the future of broadband in the Lifeline program. The following may be attributed to Kevin Taglang of the Benton Foundation:
In 2016, the FCC created a streamlined federal Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) designation process working within statutory limitations. The process allowed for broadband-only provision of service and flexibility in service areas to encourage new entrants into the Lifeline marketplace. A federal designation process encourages more companies to enter the field because it streamlines the application/designation process and reduces administrative costs for Lifeline broadband providers. This was an innovative way to help close the digital divide.
Since his designation as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the Benton Foundation has noted Ajit Pai’s dichotomous nature: he’s the folksy, down-to-earth populist, but also a Washington insider; he’s for a light regulatory touch and closing the digital divide – just not when it comes to Lifeline. On one hand, Chairman Pai has proposed streamlining local rules for improving broadband infrastructure deployment, but, in today’s announcement, he seems fine with creating more hoops for potential Lifeline broadband providers to jump through.
Here’s what today’s announcement means: less competition in the Lifeline marketplace and less choice for Lifeline consumers.
The FCC is short two commissioners, so it seems the chairman is trying to occupy two chairs or, at the least, talk out of both sides of his mouth. But if you’re really listening, the message is clear: Ajit Pai is anti-competition and anti-consumer.