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Sen. Nelson Troubled By Withdrawal of FCC E-Rate Report

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday expressing his concern with Pai's decision to rescind a progress report on the FCC's E-rate broadband subsidy program released in the last few weeks of the administration of outgoing FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

He called it a "unilateral" action to "quash" a report, saying it showed a "troubling disinterest in facts" on the part of the chairman.

Nelson said the facts were that E-rate is a student-centered program that is critical to the future of education.

Nelson also took issue with the designation of the report as controversial and the notice that it would have "no effect" going forward. The Pai FCC signaled that other similarly situated reports—released in the last days of the Wheeler FCC—were similarly to be dismissed.

Nelson said that Pai directed three bureaus to retract the order was "extraordinary" and "deeply disturbing."

Nelson said he would hold Pai accountable for "any changes that roll back this highly successful and cherished program."

An FCC spokesman said they had received the letter and were reviewing it.

But speaking on background, an FCC official pointed to Pai's long-standing support of the E-Rate program and investing in next-gen technologies to benefit students and library users--Pai has said the program is "worth fighting for."

The official said the problem with the report was that it was released without notifying commissioners or coordination with agency staff.

The report is still available at, but does not reflect the official view of the current FCC.

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.