Where’s the (Brief) Beef

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai takes issue with the characterization by Democrats that he “refused” to brief House Energy & Commerce Committee staff on a Motherboard story that wireless carriers were not disclosing real-time location data.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

Pai told The Wire that while he did not brief them during the government shutdown, once the government was un-shut, he immediately offered “the FCC’s career staff” to provide such a briefing, an offer that was accepted. “That briefing has been given and we are committed to working with Congress and any other interested stakeholders on the committee or the Senate to provide them the information that we can, consistent with the obvious rules on pending enforcement investigations,” Pai said during an interview. One Democratic staffer familiar with the meeting confirmed it had taken place, but suggested there was not a lot of meat on the bone.

Democrats in the House are ramping up their oversight of the FCC, along with virtually every other agency under the Trump regime. But Democratic senators aren’t wallflowers either, although they remain in the minority.

Sens. Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal and Ron Wyden called on Pai to investigate if carriers were throttling and prioritizing traffic and not being transparent about it. That would violate the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom order, which relies on disclosure of conduct the Federal Trade Commission can decide is or is not anticompetitive, false or deceptive. Pai was not briefing the senators or anyone else about that. “I can’t comment on any investigations that may arise or may in fact be underway,” he told The Wire.

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.