House Members Push Pai On Lifeline Authorizations

Over a dozen Democratic members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee have asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reverse his reversal of nine Lifeline broadband subsidy authorizations granted in the waning weeks of his predecessor, Chairman Tom Wheeler.

In a letter to Pai Wednesday (Feb. 15), they said his halting of the expansion of the program, which provides subsides for basic communications services to lower income residents, unnecessarily pulls the tools to connect out of the hands of the poor in the case of one provider, which is already providing service, and the potential for the other eight--which are not yet providing service--to supply those tools.

Related: Democratic Sens. Push Pai to Reverse Lifeline Decision

Pai has pointed out that the authorizations were not denied, but just returned to "pending" status while the FCC gets a better handle on weeding out potential waste, fraud and abuse, but the Dems weren't convinced.

"The order does not explain how its actions will accomplish those goals," he said. "Furthermore, since the Order raised many novel policy questions regarding the Commission’s current efforts to safeguard the integrity of the Lifeline program, we find it troubling that the Chairman would insist on pursuing the same course he has so often criticized his predecessors for: an improper exercise of the FCC’s delegated authority and a refusal to permit the full Commission from voting on an item that poses new questions of law and policy."

They said they were all for making the program more efficient and accountable, but said that need not come at the expense of the consumers who benefit from the Lifeline subsidies.

They urged him to immediately reinstate the designations and allow more companies to qualify. 

Among those signing onto the letter were E&C ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Communications Subcommittee ranking member Michael Doyle (D-Pa.), and former Communications Subcommittee chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

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.