House Dems rip FCC chief over internet subsidy program

House Dems rip FCC chief over internet subsidy program
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House Democrats are hammering Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai over his decision to cut nine companies from a program that provides subsidized internet service to low-income people.

Forty-one Democrats, including Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Ron KindRon KindCongress should prioritize small farmers and taxpayers over Big Ag Why Trump is fighting Canada on softwood lumber and dairy Lawmakers targeted as district politics shift MORE (Wis.), signed a letter on Tuesday saying that Pai’s move would hurt poor communities.

“Your action will hurt those in our country that need the most help,” they wrote. “Your arbitrary decision will hurt poor children and widen the digital divide.”

Pai's decision has sparked an uproar among Democrats.

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The House letter follows one sent on Friday from 15 Democratic senators that also blasted the decision.

“This action does nothing but create a harmful chilling effect on potential provider participation and unfairly punish low-income consumers,” that letter, which was signed by Dem Sens. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem bill would ban controversial pesticide Trump attack puts Sessions in bind Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSanders: Dems won't vote on 'sham' single payer amendment GOP Senator forces Dems to vote on single payer Dem says ObamaCare repeal effort moves US ‘toward single-payer’ MORE (Mass.), said.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also blasted the decision earlier this month, calling it a “baseless action.”

On Feb. 3rd, Pai cut nine companies from the FCC’s Lifeline program, which provides families with $9.25 a month to help subsidize paying for internet. Those companies had been approved just weeks before, near the end of then-Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler's tenure.

Pai took over as FCC chairman at the end of January. He's said one of his chief priorities will be bridging the digital divide between well-connected communities and poor and rural areas that lack easy access to telecommunications or broadband.

The new chairman defended dropping nine companies from the broadband program, saying he took the action to give the agency more time for review and insisting he was committed to helping expand internet access.

“Hyperbolic headlines always attract more attention than mundane truths,” he wrote in a blog post on Medium.

“For example, a story detailing how the FCC was undertaking further review of the eligibility of 1% of Lifeline providers wouldn’t generate too many clicks."