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 KindDemocratic rep calls on Wisconsin governor to expand Medicaid Congress should prioritize small farmers and taxpayers over Big Ag Why Trump is fighting Canada on softwood lumber and dairy 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 Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Michelle Obama is exactly who the Democrats need to win big in 2020 Wells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing 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."