US Congress asks Pai why he keeps ignoring its letters

The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, one of the illustrious commissions of the US Congress, has written to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking why he is continuing to ignore communications from elected representatives.

Jamie Davies

May 24, 2018

5 Min Read
US Congress asks Pai why he keeps ignoring its letters

The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, one of the illustrious commissions of the US Congress, has written to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking why he is continuing to ignore communications from elected representatives.

The letter itself expresses appreciation for Pai’s willingness to testify in front of the committee, but asks why he is evasive with answers, refuses to address certain questions or even acknowledge the question in the first place. Attached to the communication is a collection of letters from various members of congress Pai asking for explanations or action on some very important matters, unfortunately the Chairman has not found the time or inclination to respond for some reason.

“As members of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, we are concerned about your repeated evasive responses to our inquiries and your outright refusal to respond to some members of this Committee,” the letter reads.

Using his own words against him, Pai has been reminded by the committee he has a responsibility to answer to congress, and has subsequently been given until June 4 to respond. Whether he does is another matter. So what has Pai been ignoring?

  • On March 22 2017, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congresswomen Anna Eshoo requested an investigation into an outage of 911 emergency services for AT&T wireless customers

  • Congressman Mike Doyle wrote to Pai on April 24 2017 requesting information on a number of meeting Pai had with US telcos prior to kick-starting the net neutrality extinction process. Pai said the content of the discussions was not relevant, refusing to comment, however Doyle’s follow-up has gone without response

  • On May 2 2017, several members of Congress asked what the FCC was doing to identify the companies and influencers sponsoring content on RT (formerly Russia Today). The letter arrived at the FCC following reports Russian actors had been influencing the US election. After going unanswered, Congresswomen Eshoo, who had signed the initial request, followed up with a second, which also remained unanswered. Eshoo made a third attempt at getting more insight in a letter which was co-signed by eight other members of Congress. Eshoo, Pallone and Doyle followed up with a fourth letter in September following more reports the Russian government influenced the US election.

  • On May 11 2017 Congressman Doyle and Congressman Frank Pallone asked Pai, as well as FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Reilly, to extend the deadline for public consultation on net neutrality, after it had been conveniently set in August when many students and small business owners would be on holiday. In June, Doyle and Pallone followed up this letter, alongside several other members of Congress, questioning the security and preparedness of the FCC website, which was struggling to deal with the number of comments on the net neutrality issues. 22 members of Congress also signed a letter on February 13 asked for an explanation on how the FCC dealt with the fake comments which appeared during the public consultation period, among other things

  • Congressman Bobby Rush wrote on August 17 2017 to outline concerns over changes to the Lifeline Broadband Programme. Applicants were told to apply for the grants through individual state commissions as opposed to federal offices, though these state commissions are unable to grant any designations because of FCC rule 54.201(j). Congresswomen Doris Matsui was another who wrote over concerns about the FCC ending the Lifeline programme on August 22 2017

  • Favourable treatment of the Sinclair Broadcast Group with its acquisitions and licensing business was another area of focus in a letter from Congressman Pallone on August 14 2017. Letters focusing on developments here were sent by multiple members of Congress on August 14, September 29, November 8 2017 in addition

  • On August 15 2017, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congresswomen Eshoo wrote to Pai requesting updates to rules and protections for workers who may be at risk from radiofrequency radiation. This letter followed similar requests to the FCC in 2015 and 2013, though Pai cannot be blamed in those circumstances

  • Congressman Pallone also wrote to Pai on October 6 to request a review on the resiliency of the wireless network in light of several natural disasters

  • Congresswomen Debbie Dingell wrote on November 8 2017 to ask how broadcast technology standard ATSC 3.0 allowed advertisers and broadcasters to collect personal information for targeted advertising, and what the FCC was doing to protect consumer privacy

  • On November 15 2017, Congressman Pallone asked Pai to reconsider FCC moves to remove assistance for poorer families in accessing broadband. On the same day, 31 members of Congress also penned a letter requesting the Lifeline programme for tribal communities be maintained. Congressman Peter Welch was another who wrote in favour of the Lifeline programme on January 22 2018

  • On March 26 2018, Congressmen Doyle and Pallone wrote to Pai asking for an explanation as to why he thought it was appropriate to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference when he is supposed to be leading an independent agency

  • On April 5 2018, three members of Congress asked what Pai and the FCC was doing to combat the rise in ‘stingrays’, which could be used for espionage

  • On April 6 2018, Congresswomen Dingell requested an investigation to understand how the Cambridge Analytica scandal might have impacted the 2016 Presidential election

Perhaps this is a new form of management which Pai is trying out; all the stuff which is difficult to deal with, just ignore it. Like parking fines, Pai could blame the US Postal Service and simply say he didn’t get the letter.

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