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Pai Defends Mozilla Decision Comment Release

FCC chairman Ajit Pai Pushed back hard on Wednesday (March 11) against suggestions by Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel that he was playing "hide the ball" with the way the FCC issues its request for comment on the remand of some of its net neutrality dereg order. 

Related: FCC Seeks Comment on Restoring Internet Freedom Remand 

That came at a House Financial Services Subcommittee budget hearing featuring both Pai and Rosenworcel as witnesses. 

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), citing a 2010 law requiring federal agencies to communicate in "plain language" the public can understand, pointed to the headline on the FCC's request for comment on a federal court's directive to better address the FCC net neutrality deregulation on public safety, the regulation of pole attachments, and its Lifeline broadband/phone subsidy program. That headline: "WCB6 Comment on Discreet Issues Arising from Mozilla Decision." 

The court did uphold Pai's elimination of net neutrality rules, but said it had not sufficiently explained its impact on the above. 

Bishop said the headline didn't seem to be plain language and he didn't have any idea what the FCC was requesting comment on, while Rosenworcel called it "hiding the ball" from the American public. 

Pai countered that the language came from career staffers. He said "one could always take a shot from the peanut gallery along those lines," apparently putting Rosenworcel rather than Bishop in that gallery. He suggested that the headline was something that had been delegated. He said when you have the responsibility of running an agency, when responding to a remand on particular, discreet issues, "I rely not on political judgments but on the judgment of our career staff in the office of general counsel and the Wireline Competition Bureau." 

He said it had been drafted to respond to those particular issues that was what they had approved and he wasn't going to second guess them.  

Rosenworcel said they were accountable to the public, which had expressed great interest in the issue, and that when a court asked it to revisit some parts of deregulatory decision, "we put it in legalese."

John Eggerton
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.