FCC chair Pai buries transparency pledge with a big dump

5 February 2017 by Steve Blum
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Under orders from new republican chairman Ajit Pai, Federal Communications Commission staff issued orders and sent letters rescinding several recent actions on Friday afternoon. In what democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn blasted as a “Friday news dump” and Pai praised as “revoking midnight regulations”, the FCC cancelled or pulled back…

Clyburn’s characterisation is correct. Whatever else it might be, Friday’s late afternoon announcements are a Friday news dump. She was also right in calling out Pai’s action as hypocritical. The day before, he broke precedent and released draft versions of two relatively minor decisions the commission will consider later this month and said in a written statement

I want this Commission to be as open and accessible as possible to the American people. I want us to do a better job of communicating with those we are here to serve…Now, that’s not to say that the contents of FCC proposals and orders remain secret to everyone. Lobbyists with inside-the-Beltway connections are typically able to find out what’s in them. But the best that average Americans will get is selective disclosures authorized by the Chairman’s Office—disclosures designed to paint items in the most favorable light. More often, the public is kept completely in the dark.

During the transition to the new Trump administration, Pai and others promised to reverse any last minute actions approved under the outgoing, democratic chairman’s authority. No surprise there. But shovelling bare bones cancellation orders out all at once and just before the weekend is the same sort of political spin doctoring that former chair Tom Wheeler habitually indulged in and that Pai rightly slammed, then and now.