Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California, slammed the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai, a Republican, with prioritizing the interests of private corporations over the public interest.
Rep. Khanna, a former Obama administration official in the Commerce Department who garnered significant support from Silicon Valley companies during his campaign, took to the House floor Feb. 7, to accuse Pail of revoking Lifeline Broadband Provider status to nine companies that provide broadband access to low-income households.
“Chairman Pai’s actions are just another example of the Trump administration putting corporate interests ahead of that of the public,” Khanna said in his speech. “This decision undercuts the companies’ ability to provide low-cost Internet access to low-income Americans and is just the most recent example of the Trump administration taking action that impacts our nation’s most vulnerable.”
On Jan. 31, Pai announced the formation of a new federal advisory committee “to explore ways to accelerate deployment of high-speed Internet access (Broadband) nationwide and to close the digital divide,” and calling for removing regulatory barriers to the deployment of broadband. On Feb. 4, Pai announced that nine companies could no longer provide subsidized broadband to customers who qualify for the Lifeline program, 32-year-old program gives poor people $9.25 a month toward communications services, and was changed last year to support broadband in addition to phone service, noted the technology news and analysis website Ars Technica.
Since taking the helm at FCC, Pai took a number of actions which the New York Times said were “buried in the agency’s website and not publicly announced,” and were attempts to “roll back” consumer protection regulations and net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration that ensured equal access to content on the internet. Apart from the new rules for the 9 companies, Pai also did away with a proposal to open up the cable box market, the Times said.
“He is writing the rules of modern day capitalism in a way that privileges these elite telecom companies, with concentrated economic power, at the expense of low income Americans,” Khanna said on the House floor. “This Congress must stand united to make sure an unelected bureaucrat doesn’t get to write the rules of our economy in favor of wealthy interests at the expense of ordinary Americans.”
Khanna is circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter urging other lawmakers to join him on this issue.