Feb 12, 2017

Editorial boards split on FCC chair's first moves

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Over the past three days, three influential editorial boards have sized up FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's early tenure. The response is split between the conservative-leaning WSJ and the more liberal boards of the NYT and WaPo.

  • WSJ, on Thursday: "The Obama Administration ran the FCC as an extension of the White House, even ordering the agency in a YouTube video to classify the internet as a public utility. For all the invented panic over Republican rule in Washington, note that Mr. Pai is divesting himself of authority and making the agency more responsive to the consumers who pay his salary."
  • NYT, on Friday: "Mr. Pai, who says the Wheeler-era regulations are burdensome, clearly favors policies that serve the interests of large telecommunications companies."
  • WaPo, on Saturday: "In his first speech in the role, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai extolled the importance of bridging the digital divide between those who can afford Internet access and those who cannot. Days later, though, he opened another gap, this time between his words and his actions."

Key context: In his first weeks on the job, Pai hasn't shied away from debates over net neutrality and subsidies for internet access for low-income people.

Real talk: It's not surprising to see the Times' editorial board criticize what it sees as Pai's closeness with telcos. It has called in the past for Democrats to nominate progressives to the FCC. And the Journal's opinion pages have long provided a home for Pai's op-eds, sometimes co-bylined with Republican members of Congress.

Worth noting:

Pai isn't afraid to push back when he feels his positions are being mischaracterized in the media. Just this week, he

said

the "media headlines" about the low-income subsidy decision had "sensationalized this story and given some an entirely misleading impression of what is going on." An FCC spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the editorials.

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