Reactions to Chairman Pai Announcing His Intention to Depart FCC

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Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society: “The Pai agenda, in essence, has been to limit regulatory intrusions into the activities of companies subject to the regulatory authority of the FCC, particularly if they are large incumbent [telecom] companies.” He said the consequences of Pai’s reign have been vast for average American Internet users, leaving “fewer people who have access to broadband, fewer people who have access to diverse points of view over the air, and more people paying more for cable, wireless and wired Internet connections.”

"Unfortunately, Chairman Pai has succeeded in many of his efforts to promote the interests of large telecommunications, broadcasting, and cable companies at the expense of smaller competitors and, especially, the public. We have less competition and higher prices as a result of these policies, some of which may still be overturned in the courts."

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads technology and innovation policy at Stand Together, praised Pai for recognizing the “scope of power the FCC had." He said Pai had left a “stronger, more robust, more resilient network” that has kept pace with demand at a time when the pandemic has forced millions of Americans to communicate digitally.

Fight for the Future Deputy Director Evan Greer: "Ajit Pai will go down in history as one of the most corrupt government officials of the century. His callous attack on net neutrality and blatant coddling of Big Telecom monopolies sparked the largest cross-partisan online backlash in the modern era. As he fades into the background, his smug demeanor and giant Reese’s mug will become cautionary memes –– reminding Internet users what happens when we don’t hold our government accountable. Pai’s departure cannot come soon enough. We are in the middle of a crushing pandemic. Hundreds of millions of people are working from home and sending their kids to school online. Comcast just announced plans to re-impose arbitrary data caps. Kids are sitting outside Taco Bell to do their homework. We desperately need a functional FCC that will quickly repair the damage done by Ajit Pai and get to work protecting the public from ISP abuses. But in an unprecedented and deeply cynical move, the Senate has scheduled a confirmation vote this week on Nathan Simington, Trump’s nominee to join the commission. Simington’s involvement with Trump’s silly and blatantly unconstitutional executive order targeting Section 230 is alarming. And he has essentially no qualifications beyond his loyalty to an outgoing autocrat and stated opposition to restoring net neutrality. If the Senate confirms him, its sole purpose will be to throw sand in the gears, tying up the new FCC for months at a time when the public can’t afford the agency to be kneecapped.  The Senate should reject Simington’s nomination and let the FCC get back to work. If they don’t, they’re not "owning the libs" or "sticking it to the Biden admin," they’re just hurting working families, small businesses, and our children’s future."

Free Press Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood: “Ajit Pai has always been his own biggest fan, and his own cheering section, treating his important position at the FCC as little more than a pulpit to praise his own alleged accomplishments. But as Free Press has demonstrated countless times over the past four years, Pai tries to take credit for improvements that had nothing to do with him or that were never real to begin with. The entire premise of Pai’s failed chairmanship is a lie: He claims that his radical deregulatory agenda spurred broadband improvements and closed the digital divide. None of these claims are remotely true. While Pai hangs out the ‘mission accomplished’ banner, the stark reality is that nearly 80 million people in America still lack adequate broadband at home, with Black, Brown and Indigenous people disproportionately disconnected. That gaping digital divide remains, and Pai’s done nothing to close it — even during the ongoing pandemic that’s made essential internet connections that much more vital. While broadband speeds and coverage ticked up during Pai’s time, he had nothing to do with those improvements. In fact, these changes occurred thanks to buildout plans that ISPs made during the Obama administration. Ninety-two percent of Pai-era fiber deployments came from projects announced during 2015–2016. And AT&T’s DIRECTV merger-buildout commitment — which Pai opposed — accounted for two-thirds of all new household-fiber deployments during his tenure. Pai even missed a massive overreporting error that Free Press caught in 2019, showing that much of the modest gain in broadband coverage he boasted about was based on data his agency knew to be flawed. The broadband-speed increases Pai foolishly touts, based on cherry-picked data, are also smaller than speed increases seen during the Obama administration — and, once again, have nothing to do with Pai’s actions. Broadband speeds rise as technologies evolve — and these increases arose from deployment plans and paths put in place long before Pai took over the FCC. While Pai and his enablers in Congress bleat incessantly about broadband investment, the simple truth is that ISPs’ aggregate investment and capital expenditures have continued to decline ever since Pai abandoned the proper Title II framework for broadband-internet-access service. Tossing out the FCC’s authority to promote universally affordable broadband choices didn’t supercharge ISP investments, as Pai promised it would. Instead, companies like AT&T and Comcast pocketed massive Trump tax cuts, slashed jobs and ramped down spending to put more money in shareholders’ hands and less into building better networks. And broadband prices are once again on the rise, contrary to Pai’s claims, thanks to terrible decisions like his approval of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. This litany of failures on broadband investment, deployment and affordability is no surprise, considering that Pai opened his run as chairman by attacking the FCC’s Lifeline program. He stripped innovative providers’ ability to participate at all, and eventually revealed that he’d sacrifice Lifeline’s ability to fund any broadband subsidies for low-income people if he had to choose between the program and his own agenda. Pai always soldiered ahead on the basis of ideology and little more, repealing the agency’s successful Net Neutrality rules despite overwhelming public opposition and indications of massive fraud by ISPs and others submitting millions of fake comments at the FCC. But rather than own up to these mistakes, Pai lied to Congress, pretending that a denial-of-service attack was to blame when it was the FCC’s own failure to handle incoming comments from people opposed to Pai’s disastrous plan. Broadcast lobbyists likewise benefited from Pai’s destructive tendencies. In the earliest days of his chairmanship, Pai tossed out long-standing local broadcast-ownership limits, only to lose in court when judges castigated the agency’s repeated failure to account for the impact of its decisions on TV- and radio-ownership opportunities for people of color and women. Rather than fix those errors, Pai’s FCC took the case to the Supreme Court and will argue it there on the last full day of the Trump administration. And in recent months Pai has proven all too willing to consider the outgoing president’s request for the FCC to regulate social-media companies and speech under Section 230. After years of professing supposed regulatory humility, opposing what he called internet regulation and pretending to uphold First Amendment values when it was convenient for him, Pai signaled his eagerness to crack down on Twitter and other companies for exercising their rights to fact check Trump’s disinformation. There’s little positive to say about four years of wasted opportunities and bluster from this failed chairman. But saying good riddance today is an opportunity to turn the page and get back to the serious work the FCC ignored while Pai ran it.”

Reactions to Chairman Pai Announcing His Intention to Depart FCC FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to leave agency next year (Washington Post) Ajit Pai announces departure from FCC after four-year deregulatory blitz (ars technica) Goodbye, Ajit Pai. The Senate should reject Nathan Simington and let the FCC get back to work. (Fight for the Future) Pai Pats Himself on the Back Again to Signal End of His Disastrous FCC Run (Free Press)