back to article Grumble Pai: FCC boss told by House Dems to try the novel concept of putting US folks first, big biz second

The chairs of the US House of Reps' commerce and technology committees have picked a fight with FCC boss Ajit Pai, accusing him of being a corporate stooge. In the letter [PDF], Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) accuse the watchdog's head …

  1. Kev99 Bronze badge

    We can only hope Pallone & Doyle are successful. Maybe they can start an action against Pai for nonfeasance and failure to comply with his oath of office.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "He is not a politician but a civil servant and as such is obliged to explain his actions to Congress."

    I can't help thinking that a useful weapon to have in dealing with refractory public servants would be the ability to put them under a degree of financial micromanagement if their relevant oversight committee becomes displeased with them. Each month they are required to report back to the committee on what they've done in regard to their key objectives and their monthly pay is only signed off if the committee is satisfied with what they're reported. Obvious precautions could be taken to verify the reports from time to time.

    1. veti Silver badge

      That would be extremely costly for the committee, in both time and effort. I doubt if they have either the resources or the patience to enforce it.

      In theory, if Congress wants to, it could do that. After all, it controls the purse strings; if it wants to fund the FCC for a month at a time, that's totally within its power. However, budget fights - which is what this would amount to - tend to lose focus, and very quickly become proxies for something other than what they were originally supposed to be about. For instance, air traffic controllers get defunded because the president wants to confiscate millions of acres of private land to build a wall.

      So in theory it's already possible, but there are good reasons why it's not done that way.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        It also applies to "nice" agencies and "naughty" congress

        How would the EPA have done under a Trump congress if it is ruled by tweet?

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Yeah, well, how has the EPA has been run by those who wholeheartedly disagree with it's primary goals and only seek to destroy it from the inside?

          Although it's not being run by presidential tweet it's not much better, is it?

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        And let's not forget the other power that Congress has: it can just flat out tell the FCC what it can and cannot do. The FCC acts within the laws that Congress passes. If Congress wants, it can alter the laws to make the FCC actually serve the interests of the people.

        It just doesn't want to.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Trouble is, amending an Act takes another Act, which means going through the Senate, which is still controlled by Trump-fearing Republicans.

    2. BillG Silver badge

      "try the novel concept of putting folks first, big biz second"

      I've never met a government that did that.

  3. Queeg

    Burn Baby, Burn

  4. ST Silver badge

    I doubt Pai is smart enough ...

    ... to understand that the House Of Representatives can really make his two remaining years as FCC Chair toxic.

    Yes, I am assuming that The Great Orange won't be re-elected in 2020. Bai-bai goes Pai.

    Pai seems to be the type of arrogant idiot that believes themselves to be untouchable, simply because they are - at this very moment - in a position of power. This type of idiocy has been the hallmark of the Great Orange Administration.

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: I doubt Pai is smart enough ...

      I suspect it literally doesn't matter to him. He's just waiting for the consulting job with the cable industry. He might even get a higher salary than now.

    2. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Re: I doubt Pai is smart enough ...

      Pai is a Repiblican appointee rather than a friend of Agent Orange, isn't he? I suspect that if the Republicans can hold the Presidency but with another incumbent, A. Pai will stay where he is.

  5. Gio Ciampa

    Big biz first, surely...

    ...isn't that the American way?

    (That, or invasion to control oil supplies)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Big biz first, surely...

      Obviously if the people cared so much about the FCC they would have bought their own chairman

    2. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Big biz first, surely...

      Invasion to control banana supplies happened several times during the 20th century. Ask the Hondurans.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Big biz first, surely...

      Is oil worse than opium?

      ::insert something pithy about glass houses here::

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Big biz first, surely...

      Something they inherited from the Brits then.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Big biz first, surely...

        Well, and all imperial powers, ever, throughout history. To be fair.

    5. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Big biz first, surely...

      ...isn't that the American way?

      Maybe not the way it started out but there are arguments about that, but currently it is. I'm waiting for a rewrite of things along the line of: “government of the corporates, by the corporates, for the corporates”. It's not just the FCC from the top to bottom.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporate Stool....

    Fixed it for you. The FCC has ALWAYS been a paid shill of telcos

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      Re: Corporate Stool....

      no, the previous FCC chairman was very much pro consumer

  7. jake Silver badge

    Sounds like ...

    ... the Idjit "Tweety" Pai is about to get his comeuppance.

    Sadly, when the sniveling, brown-nosing shit is inevitably removed from office, he'll likely be given several high paying Board seats in the industry, as a thank you from his lords & masters for services rendered.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like ...

      Probably not - he is a toxic asset, why risk it once he has outlived his usefullness ?

      Any telco trying to operate in California with Pai on their board is in for a world of hurt

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like ...

        he is a toxic asset, why risk it once he has outlived his [usefulness]?

        Appearance. Industry wants to be at least fairly consistent in rewarding its running-dogs. That's what keeps the next generation plugging away.

        And Pai's sinecure, whatever its form, will cost the telcos essentially nothing, relative to their resources. There's negligible risk to them. They're already widely hated by consumers but have such strong market positions that they're more or less untouchable except by strong government action.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like ...

        But the industry that would hire him is also toxic, so I'm not sure that matters too much to them.

        Regardless, even if it does, they'd still hire him -- they'd just give him a meaningless title, an office, and no responsibilities. They'd have to -- if they don't follow through with the promised bribe, then their promises of bribes in the future wouldn't work.

    2. quxinot

      Re: Sounds like ...

      Break out the popcorn!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I hope all those fbrown envelopes are really untraceable. Well, i dont really.

  9. Graham 25

    So if he is a public sector worker, why not sack him for one of his numerous apparent non-responses ?

    Can someone with a better understanding of the US Legal system explain why not ?

    1. Paul Herber

      Yes, but it will cost you $1000/hr + expenses per lawyer involved.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Who's going to fire him?

      Pai's boss is Trump, and Trump's bosses (board members, Putin, narcissism, etc) like Pai just fine.

      In theory Congress could remove Pai, through one of two routes: legislation or impeachment. (They could remove him by legislation by, for example, passing a law that dissolved and reconstituted the FCC, with a provision that former commissioners could not be reappointed.)

      Passing legislation would require majorities in both houses and Trump's signature or veto-proof majorities in both houses. Neither is even remotely plausible.

      Impeachment requires the Senate file articles of impeachment; then the House must vote to impeach; then the Senate conducts a trial. If he were convicted in the Senate, the Senate could remove him from office. This is even less likely to happen.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Last I checked, filing Articles IS the House vote, as impeachment always begins in the House. Otherwise, talk about impeaching Trump would be a non-starter.

  10. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Public sector worker...

    @Graham 25 asks if Pai can be sacked as a public servant... it's complicated.

    First the typical case: most civil servants work in the Executive Branch, which sits under the President. All of these people serve at his pleasure and can be fired by the chief executive. Congress, a separate and supposedly co-equal branch does not have personnel authority, but it does have the blunt instrument of controlling agency budgets. So if Congress if feeling peeved they can pressure the President by de-funding an agency, but this is a cat fight.

    Edge cases: FCC is one of a number of independent agencies. It is funded entirely by fees levied on industry and ultimately passed on to consumers. Board members are appointed the President and confirmed by the Senate. The President appoints one of the Board members as chair. I believe a commissioner's term of office is 5 years. In this construct neither the President nor Congress have direct personnel authority. Theoretically this insulates a regulatory organization from political influence. But given the FCC's third of a billion $ budget is actually paid by industry, Congress has even less power than usual because there are no purse strings they can cut. One could argue a regulator funded by the industry it regulates is inherently weak, and I wouldn't disagree.

    What can Congress do? Pass specific legislation to regulate industry. But if the President vetoes the bill, Congress needs a 2/3 majority to override. And this is difficult in a country equally split between parties.

    Congress can hold individuals in contempt for refusing documents, refusing to testify, and so forth. There are civil and criminal sanctions available but lawmakers rarely invoke this power.

    Interestingly its the Judiciary that decided the Congress needed extraordinary powers to hold persons in contempt, largely through a ruling in the early 19th century:

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Public sector worker...

      " But if the President vetoes the bill, Congress needs a 2/3 majority to override. And this is difficult in a country equally split between parties."

      The bigger problem is that Congress doesn't want anything to change. They're sitting pretty -- the FCC is acting the way they want, and Trump/Pai is getting all the blame.

      If Congress really wanted to fix this problem, they would legislate and let Trump veto (even if they can't override). That would bring the issue front and center to the citizenry and would be a good step towards ultimately fixing the problems. They simply don't want to -- Congress is on the same page as the FCC (and other agencies these days): they want to benefit the rich and powerful to the greatest degree possible and couldn't care less about anyone else.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Public sector worker...

      There's also impeachment. Congress has taken the position that anyone appointed by the President - which includes Pai, as an FCC Commissioner - is eligible for impeachment. However, this is even less likely than Congress attempting to remove someone through legislation.

  11. chivo243 Silver badge

    ready aim fire

    cream pies at 3 meters. What a jerk... Hopefully he gets what he deserves ;-}

  12. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    What a shit!

    The swamp has been replaced with a septic tank :(

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: What a shit!

      ...which is in the middle of a swamp. And overflowing into that swamp.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: What a shit!

        International Order Of Wetlands on line one ... seems they take issue with being lumped in with that lot.

  13. LDS Silver badge

    Even when authorities are on the citizens' side, government may bow to telco lobbying

    There's another "net neutrality" fight in Italy. What happened is that AGCOM (more or less the equivalent of FCC) made a regulation last Summer adopting EU "net neutrality" regulation 2015/2120.

    The biggest point is barring telcos to force their "terminal equipment" (modem/routers) onto users - users who have to pay them usually a few euros per month for 48 months (and have to pay the full price if the contract is rescinded earlier) - which means a lock-in, and easy money for telcos that usually overprice cheap devices (the total amount is usually around 250-300 euro). The regulation required to publish connection parameters, to allow user to rescind contracts without any fee, and to unlock devices when fully paid. Obviously the telcos tried to fight it. The attempt to quash the regulation failed so they are now attempting delaying and deceiving tactics - and soon the government started to help them.

    First they obtained a delay until the beginning of this year "to upgrade the network to comply". Some threatened users if using their own devices and tried to invent their own "device approval" system which is forbidden by the law for evident conflicts of interests. Forced, they started to publish parameters but slowly, and some putting more obstacles than needed. Vodafone didn't comply yet (maybe it's hoping in Brexit?). Another way is to assert that GPON equipment is a strict part of their network, so users can't use their own ONTs for FTTH connections.

    But it became surreal when the ex-monopolist, TIM, asked the "State Council" (the highest administrative court) to block the part about rescinding contracts without fees. The equivalent of the "attorney general" didn't appear at the hearing to defend the state agency regulation - without an explanation - it was up to other associations (hardware vendors and distributors, independent ISPs, and others) to defend. It was re-sent to the lower court, that surprisingly days ago said it has no time for a hearing until October 23.

    There are reasons why the government would like to buy telcos consensus as it hopes to merge the company that won the bid for the new fiber network into the ex-monopolist company.... and letting them milking the users despite the agency rules could be one. And they are "populists" also, and bark against lobbies....

  14. Curly4

    '"It’s Oversight Time" – the congressman announced he would reintroduce a bill [PDF] that would direct the FCC to do more about robocalls and given consumers the right to stop calls and require incoming calls to have caller ID before they are routed to their phones.'

    These democrats are so out of touch! An example: the other day I received a call. When I answered the call I was surprised because the call I was receiving was from myself. That is correct. It was my own number calling me but when I answered it was a telemarketer with the person speaking in Spanish or one of the similar languages. Now I don't speak Spanish nor understand it except a very few words.

    Here is the part that these democrats don't understand. I ask my son who has been a network administrator for nearly 2 decades about how my number could call me when I had my phone with me. Here is what he said. These marketers buy list of numbers for the area they are targeting. The then use that number as a display for the call. He also said that they can make any number appear to be making the call that they want to. It has nothing to do with the phone company, in fact the phone company don't know any thing about what number is being used. Another example: After receiving one of these calls I decided to check it out so I called the number displayed on my phone. I got a "this number is not in service" answer.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      There is another system

      No, not Guardian, and I don't know if this applies outside the U.S., but IIRC there are at least two "Caller ID" like systems in the U.S. The common or garden Caller ID depends on the information given by the "network" in general, either (ideally) originating at the caller's provider and passed along unmolested, or "just made up" by one of the hops along the line. Think of it like the "From" header on email. "Trust, and don't bother to verify".

      The other system is used for "Free calls" ("Callee Pays", 800 etc. "Area Codes" in the U.S.). That info is much more likely to be correct, because one of the main reasons for having an "800 number" in these days of really cheap "long distance" calls is to gather the phone numbers of every caller. This can be used as proof of an "established business relationship", and thus exempt one from "Do Not Call" regulation. I assume there is a similar use for "900" (enhanced services, aka porn-chat) lines. _somebody_ has to know who to bill), and of course "911" emergency services, although the recent 911 call from space indicates there is "room for improvement"

      In summary: requiring that a call have "Caller ID" is hardly likely to improve things, since it is almost certainly unreliable, and probably fraudulent. Get an 800 number if you want a (mostly) truthful "origination number". Like most surcharges for "not spitting in the soup", it will cost you...

      1. sprograms

        Re: There is another system

        The answer to the problem is to eliminate the practices of "the hops" along the way. Outlaw the change of the originating caller's number at any point before the intended destination number.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: There is another system

          There is a real, legitimate reason to allow people to set the caller ID. If you are calling out from a place that has many trunk lines, the phone # attached to a particular line is likely not one that can be called. The primary reason to be able to set the caller ID number is to allow call centers and the like to be able to set it to the right number for people to return the call to. That's 100% valid.

          The problem is that this ability is being abused.

          If the solution is to prevent this ability, then all that has to be done is to get rid of CID entirely and use ANI instead. ANI cannot be blocked or spoofed, but the number provided is not always useful aside from for billing purposes.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: There is another system

            ANYTHING can be spoofed with the help of a friendly telephone exchange housed in a hostile country. Most robocallers are from hostile countries, protected by foreign sovereignty.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      " The then use that number as a display for the call. He also said that they can make any number appear to be making the call that they want to. "

      This is true.

      "It has nothing to do with the phone company, in fact the phone company don't know any thing about what number is being used."

      This is not true. When you're setting the caller ID, you're sending the data to the phone system. The phone company has full visibility of it (they have to, because they have to move that data to the phone being called).

    3. Palpy

      Re: Robocalls.

      Yes, well, this would require some retooling, as noted by other commentards.

      I get maybe a dozen robocalls a day, mostly from scammers pretending to be affiliated with Marriot or Hilton hotels. Always "from" different numbers, and obviously not a connection you can call back to.

      So the first step is obviously to disable phone number spoofing. Good luck getting that done effectively and in a time frame that is not measured in geological ages.

      Of course, if you could phone the scammers back, some good folks would make it their business to tie up the scammer's lines indefinitely. Under the current system, that is not possible except in the rare case where the robocaller is naively allowing the real number for their call center to show up on the annoyed party's phone.

  15. DerekCurrie Bronze badge

    These are grounds to throw The Pai Man out of the FCC

    Get some serious guts, US House, and throw this bum OUT of the FCC. End corporatocracy, permanently. You're the oversight. DO the oversight.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: These are grounds to throw The Pai Man out of the FCC

      Trouble is, they are NOT the oversight. The lobbyists are. It's the old Golden Rule in action .... He who has the gold makes the rules.

      Note that I'm not advocating the above state of affairs, just pointing out the obvious.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    He's got that smug look.

    "Yeah, I'm a corporate stooge"

    "And you know I'm a corporate stooge"

    "And I know you know I'm a corporate stooge."

    "And there's not a damm thing you can do about it."

    "What are you going to do, eh? Nothing."

    That's why he's got that smug look.

    But I bet there are people who could do something about it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He's got that smug look.

      Anyone who possibly could is either in his pocket or he's in theirs.

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