FCC dismisses Warren’s attacks as ‘hot air’

Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) dismissed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) criticism of the agency’s chairman as “hot air,” after the Democratic presidential candidate accused him of advancing the interests of the telecom industry.

The pushback comes in response to an op-ed the senator published in The Washington Post on Tuesday arguing for renewed federal efforts to expand internet access to areas that lack it. She partly attributed the problem to the lack of competition among internet service providers (ISPs).

{mosads}“ISPs have been able to get away with fostering pseudo-monopolies because they spend a lot of money to keep the regulatory environment and the conversation surrounding it murky,” Warren wrote. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, has been an effective agent for ISPs. He led the charge to dismantle net neutrality last year, and he has done everything in his power to stop municipalities from building their own broadband infrastructure.”

When asked by The Hill for comment, a spokesman for the FCC sent an emailed statement defending Pai’s record on expanding internet access.

“Under Chairman Pai’s leadership of the FCC, the digital divide has been closing, average Internet speeds have substantially increased, and we’ve seen fiber deployed to more homes in a single year than any previous year in American history,” the spokesman said in the statement. “Chairman Pai has also instituted innovative reforms to the Commission’s universal service programs that are expanding broadband deployment across rural America in a cost-efficient manner. Indeed, the Commission just approved $4.9 billion last week for rural broadband deployment.”  

“So notwithstanding the hot air that campaign season brings, the truth is that his approach is producing real results and delivering digital opportunity to people across our country,” the statement continued.

Warren’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Massachusetts senator released a plan earlier this month to expand broadband networks to the millions of Americans who lack any way to access high-speed internet. The plan includes pushing for public broadband projects that would inject some competition into a highly concentrated ISP market, and she vowed to spend $85 billion to fund such efforts.

“There is both a moral and an economic imperative to enact a public option for broadband,” Warren wrote Wednesday. “If we stay on our current trajectory, ISPs will continue to decide which communities succeed and which ones fail. We imperil the success of future generations, threaten our competitiveness on the global stage and risk further diaspora from towns and cities that are in dire need of economic turnaround.”

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