House Commerce committee says it has inside knowledge of dodgy regulator antics

US telecoms regulator the FCC has been accused of colluding with companies it is supposed to oversee in order to protect a controversial decision over new 5G networks.

Chair of the House Commerce chair, Frank Pallone, has sent a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai asking for copies of communications between the FCC and the big telcos regarding legal challenges to the regulator’s 5G order, which forces local governments to charge a flat fee for installing new base stations.

In the letter [PDF], Pallone strongly implies that the committee has heard from a whistleblower.

“It has come to our attention that certain individuals at the FCC may have urged companies to challenge the order the Commission adopted in order to game the judicial lottery procedure and intimated the agency would look unfavorably towards entities that were not helpful,” it reads.

In effect, the letter alleges that FCC staff – almost certainly from Pai’s office – put pressure on the big telcos to challenge an order that is designed to benefit them as a way of gaming the judicial system so the case didn’t end up in a court likely to overturn it.

As crazy as that sounds, given what we know of the FCC under chair Ajit Pai, it is all too possible. Not only has Pai’s office pandered to Big Cable to an excessive degree in the past two years, pushing through changes vehemently opposed by everyone that isn’t one of the main telcos, there has been a rumors that the regulator is actively working in secret with companies it is supposed to oversee. A series of unusually aligned and coordinated responses have long raised eyebrows.

In one case, a series of decisions that appeared designed to benefit a single company – Sinclair – become the focus on an investigation by the FCC’s Ombudsman who ultimately concluded he couldn’t prove any collusion. The final report was very far from clearing their names however and could be seen as evidence that Pai and his staff have become adept at hiding their tracks.

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