FCC Chairman Pai’s Plan to Downgrade Rural America

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President Trump-appointed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has rubberstamped the elimination of several policies and protections that are critical to closing the digital divide. Among these now-battered policies is an item that will be decided on in November and will give telecom giants a green light to abandon their rural customers.

Under the current FCC rules, legacy telecommunication providers must notify their customers 180 days before making changes to their existing copper network to either maintain the current service offered or to upgrade the infrastructure for potentially faster, better internet service. Chairman Pai is calling for a vote to gut this requirement altogether, calling it an “unnecessary regulatory encumbrance.” This means that areas still operating on the traditional copper network, like much of rural America, could lose or see a change in their current service without advanced notice, and might not get an adequate replacement.

Perhaps the most troubling part of Chairman Pai’s recent attack on the digital divide is how disguised and under the radar this proceeding has been. The Chairman openly prides himself on implementing regulations that bridge the digital divide, yet consistently proposes and votes against that very interest. His friendly demeanor and legal gymnastics may make it look like he is fighting on behalf of consumers, but in reality, his agenda only hurts the American public, particularly communities that require the most help. Chairman Pai has even gone so far as to name the current proceeding Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment; a name that, to the naked eye, screams “I’m helping Americans upgrade their services!” However, underneath this facade, it is crystal clear that this is just another industry-backed plan to downgrade rural America.

The draft Order that will be voted on by the Commissioners in November. 

FCC Chairman Pai’s Plan to Downgrade Rural America