Jan. 19, 2021
On Wednesday, Ajit Pai will resign as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Pai joined the FCC in 2012 as a commissioner, and was elevated to chairman by President Trump in January 2017.
OTI opposed Pai’s actions on a range of issues, from his “weed-whacker” approach to consumer protection laws to his rubber-stamping of mergers that will raise prices and kill jobs. OTI sued to overturn Pai’s 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality and the FCC’s authority over internet service providers. In 2018, OTI issued a report card on Pai’s first year, finding that he had weakened his agency’s ability to serve the American people. In September 2020, OTI sent Congress an updated review of Pai’s “failed leadership.”
This week, OTI published a working paper on the legacy of Pai’s four-year assault on the Lifeline program, which helps low-income Americans afford phone and internet service. The paper also outlines a blueprint for the program’s recovery and growth under new leadership.
The following statement can be attributed to Joshua Stager, senior counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute:
“When Ajit Pai became chairman in 2017, we said the American people needed an FCC that fights for them. Unfortunately, that’s not what we got with Chairman Pai. For the past four years, he embraced a radical agenda that rolled back consumer protections, rubber-stamped corporate wish lists, and even weakened his own agency’s legal authority.
“The full catalogue of Pai’s attacks on the public interest could fill a book. His four-year campaign against the Lifeline program is just one example of the doggedness of his anti-consumer agenda. A federal judge called his approach to internet regulation—which included repealing net neutrality—‘unhinged.’ All of this left the FCC toothless to help people when disasters struck, whether it was California firefighters battling wildfires or Puerto Ricans trying to connect after Hurricane Maria. Perhaps worst of all, he has been asleep at the wheel while millions of people suffer through the COVID-19 pandemic without access to the internet.
“Pai was also an ardent opponent of transparency. He aggressively fought numerous FOIA lawsuits, concealing everything from 47,000 consumer complaints about net neutrality to at least 2,000 complaints about people’s internet service during the pandemic—an ongoing concealment that Congress is investigating.
“We look forward to turning the page on this chapter of FCC history and urge new leadership to set a new course. The American people still need an FCC that fights for them.”