Dems Slam Pai in Oversight Hearing

As expected, House Energy & Commerce Committee Democratic leaders used an FCC oversight hearing in its Communications Subcommittee to hammer FCC chair Ajit Pai over policies and actions with which they strongly disagree.

In his opening statement, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, said the chairman had yet to explain to Congress or the American people what it was doing about mobile carriers sharing real time geolocation data, including to bounty hunters.

He said that was unacceptable, including that no carriers had been held accountable. "We need answers," he said.

He also slammed the inaccurate and deeply flawed broadband deployment data, old and faulty business broadband data, and warned the FCC not to act on a USTelecom forbearance petition using such data.

He said the FCC should auction the C-band spectrum, rather than hand that money to "four foreign satellite companies," which he said would be irresponsible.

Doyle said robocalls are out of control--going from 2 billion a month under the previous administration to $5 billion under the Trump Administration. "We are past the point of Band-Aids," he said.

Full committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) pulled no punches in his opening statement.

"[O]ver the last two years, this FCC has too often turned its back on the public – putting the big corporate interests first," he said.

He said the FCC under Pai had "heartlessly and needlessly proposed drastic cuts" to the Lifeline phone and broadband subsidy for low income Americans.

Pallone said the FCC had "slashed" media ownership rules, making it harder for minorities to own broadcast properties.

He used terms like "derelict" and "abdicate" to describe its deregulation of internet access service.

Pallone said the FCC had misled the public about the extent to which it had closed the rural divide, initially basing that assertion on flawed data and, citing reports, said Pai had "voted to release the Congressionally mandated broadband report knowing that the data in the draft was inaccurate."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.