Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai is going to have some explaining to do when he appears before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Thursday morning at a hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the committee, said, “From efforts to better utilize spectrum powering our wireless economy to expanding rural broadband access, combatting robocalls, and reviewing the media landscape, the FCC and its operations are critically important. This hearing will offer Senators the opportunity to ask commissioners questions about topics of critical importance to their states and constituents.”
I am hopeful that our lawmakers in Washington, D.C., will do the right thing and hold Pai accountable for some untruths a recent report put out by the FCC’s inspector general uncovered. Those falsehoods aided Pai in his quest dial back protections that kept the internet open and free for everyone.
To recap: When the FCC’s Republican majority decided in 2017 to repeal net neutrality—or rather, put that decision to a vote—it opened the proposal up to public comment, giving all American citizens an opportunity to have their say about the decision.
John Oliver, host of the HBO series Last Week Tonight, directed his viewers to go to the website and leave comments in favor of keeping the net neutrality rules on the books. He did the same thing in 2014, and it had the same effect it had last year—the FCC comment system was overwhelmed by the amount of traffic and ground to a halt.
The difference is, when it happened again in 2017, the Pai-helmed FCC blamed the situation on “multiple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.”
The inspector general’s report directly refutes that claim, and since the report’s publication, Pai has sought to distance himself from the original lie—choosing to blame agency’s former chief information officer, David Bray.
In a statement issued last week, Pai claimed that Bray provided “inaccurate information.”
“I want to thank the Office of the Inspector General, both for its thorough effort to get to the bottom of what happened and for the comprehensive report it has issued,” Pai wrote. “With respect to the report’s findings, I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people. This is completely unacceptable.”
First of all, it’s hilarious that Pai even found a way to blame Obama, which seems to be a thing with everyone in this administration.
The other side of that statement, however, is that Pai and those who work with and for him were willing to accept said “inaccurate information” without doing any research or digging to verify its validity.
Pai effectively ignored the pleas of an American public that wanted to keep net neutrality in place. When the system was overloaded with fake comments on both ends, it made it easy for him to discredit and ignore the public comments as a whole. The bogus cyber-attack was another way of deflecting and shifting attention away from what was and is an obviously flawed and impaired commenting system.
To be clear, polls show that 82 percent of Republicans are in favor of net neutrality. In fact, it appears that net neutrality is only a partisan issue in Washington.
For everyday Americans, this is a class issue. It is a race issue. It is a First Amendment issue. It is an education issue.
People deserve to have free and equal access to information no matter their status in society. That is the way the free marketplace of ideas works.
When you remove access, you silence voices. You impede progress. You stop learning. You take away the level playing field.
Is that Ajit Pai’s goal?
I hope our senators can hold him accountable and make him answer that very important question Thursday.