Dem rips FCC chief for scrapping report on broadband in schools

Dem rips FCC chief for scrapping report on broadband in schools

A top Democrat is blasting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai for withdrawing an agency report touting the progress of a program to help bring broadband to schools and libraries.

“Your unilateral action last week to quash a staff report providing an analysis and progress report of the agency’s E-Rate modernization efforts shows a troubling disinterest in the facts,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDem asks airlines to cap airfares ahead of Hurricane Maria Trump encourages Rick Scott to run for Senate Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule MORE (Fla.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote in a letter to Pai on Wednesday.

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“The facts are these: the revitalized E-Rate program is now connecting more schools and libraries in every state with faster and better broadband. More students in more places, including in more rural areas, can now get access to the tools they need for a digital education, which is essential if our nation’s students are to compete in the 21st century economy,” he added.

Pai on Friday announced that the agency was retracting a report on the E-Rate program.

It was just one of a flurry of agency actions the new Republican chairman is taking as part of his effort to revoke "midnight regulations" pushed through at the end of the last administration.

“These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of Commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward,” Pai said in a statement on Friday. “Accordingly, they are being revoked.”

A spokesperson for Pai defended the decision to pull back the report.

"The report at issue was released without notifying the commissioners of the agency and without coordination with appropriate agency staff; its rescission makes clear that the report does not reflect the official views of the agency but rather the views of the particular individual that drafted the report," an FCC official told The Hill.

The official emphasized Pai's support for the E-Rate program.

Pai has been on the defensive over some of his actions since taking the reins at the agency.

On Friday, he also decided to drop nine companies from the FCC's Lifeline program, which provides low-income households with subsidies for internet and phone access.

That also sparked criticism from Democrats and some consumer groups. Pai published a blog post on Tuesday blasting media coverage of the Lifeline decision.

This story was updated at 4:52 p.m.