ANALYSIS: Newly-appointed Ajit Pai is taking the first steps toward taking the secrecy out of FFC’s rule-making process
In a statement that the FCC released to the media, Pai also recognized a different type of digital divide, the people who were able to pay for a well-placed lobbyist to learn what inside the latest NPRMs—and everyone else.
“Lobbyists with inside-the-Beltway connections are typically able to find out what’s in them,” he explained. “But the best that average Americans will get is selective disclosures authorized by the Chairman’s Office—disclosures designed to paint items in the most favorable light. More often the public is kept completely in the dark.”
Chairman Pai’s honesty is refreshing, to say the least. During the years that I’ve been covering the FCC, the agency has been notable in its secrecy, its lack of accountability, and in its level of effort to keep the public and as the public’s representatives, the news media, at arm’s length.
There have been days when I had better luck getting a comment out of the National Security Agency than I did from the FCC.
As Pai points out, other parts of the government didn’t go to such lengths the keep the public from knowing what’s going on. When a Congressman introduces a bill for consideration, the full text of the bill is available to anyone who wants to read it. The deliberations of other agencies are also open. There was no good reason for the FCC to buck that trend except perhaps to further the efforts of some of its leaders to grab power in the darkness.
During my years as a reporter for United Press International, I was part of a committee that was working to shine light on some darker corners of government. These days, freedom of information is a term commonly thrown around, and in many cases it’s only the laws stemming from freedom of information initiatives that allows the public to know what our government is actually doing.
One thing I believed then, and still believe, is that government works best when there is plenty of light shining on its operations. When everyone can see what the officials who manage our government are doing, then under the table deals, midnight decisions and shameless power grabs are harder to pull off. The FCC, especially under the previous chairman, has been a classic example of what happens when the government works in the dark.
Perhaps now, if this pilot program is successful, this shameful period of the FCC is over. But I have one question, and that is how we will know if the pilot program is successful or why it wasn’t. That decision, too, needs to be visible in the light of day.
Originally published on eWeek