FCC Quick to Start Undoing Actions Implemented Under Former Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has signaled the commission will be looking carefully at applicants for broadband subsidies.

Ajit Pai called closing the digital divide a central element of his policy agenda during his initial speech as the new FCC chairman. "These unexpected revocations will not only limit choices for Lifeline consumers, but also have a chilling effect on participation of other potential broadband providers of Lifeline service".

The FCC's Lifeline Support for Affordable Communications was created to bridge the digital divide, but under this new order, nine ISPs will not be able to take part in the program. The FCC appears to be rescinding the offer it approved back in January to the following companies: Spot On, Boomerang Wireless, KonaTel, FreedomPop, AR Designs, Kajeet, Liberty, Northland Cable, and Wabash Independent Networks. "I urge the FCC to immediately reconsider this baseless action, and get to work helping Americans stay connected, rather than ripping phones from those who need them most". "These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace". Additionally, he said that the last-minute actions did not have the full backing of the majority of commissioners at the time, should not bind the commission going forward, he said. Despite his pledges to increase regulatory transparency and bridge the "digital divide"-the term commonly used to describe the economic and cultural division between people who can afford high-speed internet access and those who cannot-the first Indian-American FCC chairman's recent decisions have raised concerns about where his loyalties actually lie".

The lone Democrat on the commission, Mignon Clyburn, blasted Pai for "take out the trash day" Friday.

According to FCC data, almost 13 million Americans who do not have broadband service at home may be eligible for Lifeline. The bureau made a similar conclusion about Verizon's FreeBee zero-rating program, but not T-Mobile's Binge On.

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"I'm most concerned about the children we serve", said Daniel Neal, CEO, chairman and founder of Kajeet in a Los Angeles Times article.

Revoking the nine approvals "would promote program integrity by providing the [FCC] with additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program", the decision said.

Public Knowledge, an Internet policy and advocacy group partly funded by broadband providers, said in a statement that the decision "will likely result in needy families losing access to the critical connectivity they use to communicate with loved ones, look for employment [and] complete homework assignments".

The news comes as a bog blow for Kajeet Inc., which services 300 school districts in 41 states including Washington D.C.in providing students with the internet if they do not have it at home.

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