Last Friday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai rescinded close to a dozen policies of the FCC, including rulemakings on expanding the program providing Internet service to low income households, rulings on several TV stations’ violations of political file rules and further restricting TV shared services and joint sales agreements. Chairman Pai also announced the end of the Commission’s probe into the controversial wireless “zero rating” data plans.
The American Library Association has been a proud partner in initiatives to support broadband opportunity and access to information, including the expansion of the Lifeline program. We also have supported many policies that improve equity and access to information the Chairman unilaterally rescinded on Friday. We believe these moves will make the digital divide wider and are troubled by the direction this Chairman appears to be heading with “Friday news dumps” that give little to no time for discussion or dissent. Please see below for a statement from ALA President Julie Todaro on Friday’s alarming moves by the FCC:
On February 3, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revoked all of the designations of Lifeline Broadband Providers and ordered the retraction of multiple reports, including the “E-rate Modernization Progress Report” and “Improving the Nation’s Digital Infrastructure.”
The American Library Association (ALA) is dismayed by these actions to reduce digital opportunity and revise the public record. ALA President Julie Todaro released the following statement.
“The American Library Association (ALA) strenuously objects to recent actions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). First, the ALA is alarmed by the sudden revocation of the nine Lifeline Broadband Provider designations. Reducing options for Lifeline broadband services is a step back in efforts to close the homework gap and digital divide, and is at odds with Chairman Pai’s stated desire to advance digital empowerment. The 2016 Lifeline modernization order represented a critical milestone in our national commitment to connect low-income Americans to the broadband that powers educational and economic opportunity. ALA and our nation’s 120,000 libraries are committed to advancing digital opportunity for all, and we urge the FCC to increase the number of broadband options available for Lifeline customers.
“The ALA also calls for the FCC to maintain an accurate and complete historical record. While new FCC leadership may have new policy directions, the public record should not be permanently altered. Governmental agencies must be accountable in this regard. We urge the reversal of the retraction decisions and an agreement that the FCC will not order the removal of any other documents from the public record. Such actions undermine the credibility of the FCC and Chairman Pai’s recent move to increase transparency of the Commission’s rulemaking.
“Full and public debate with the accompanying historical record preserved on these foundational internet issues that affect every person in this country should be the standard we expect and demand.”