Corrupt all the way down

Corrupt all the way down

by digby

This is nice:

A new rule championed by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai would limit internet and phone access for millions of low-income and elderly Americans.

Pai's proposed changes to the Lifeline program, which currently serves 12 million Americans by providing subsidized phone and internet service, would cut service to about 70 percent, or 8 million, of them. Many of these recipients live in Puerto Rico and rely on Lifeline for assistance as they recover from Hurricane Irma.

Last week, a group of Democratic Senators including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeff Merkley, Edward J. Markey, Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin and Cory Booker wrote a letter to the FCC chairman questioning his motives.

“The Lifeline program is essential for millions of Americans who rely on subsidized internet access to find jobs, schedule doctor’s appointments, complete their school assignments, interface with the government, and remain connected in a digital economy,” they wrote. “The program helps Americans—including disproportionate numbers of families with children, veterans and people of color—survive.”

The letter also questioned the economic reasoning for the program change. “It is unclear why the FCC would spend billions of dollars to expand access to broadband while at the same time make Lifeline less accessible to those who need it most,” it read.

The Lifeline program is a 33-year-old bipartisan program started under President Ronald Reagan and bolstered by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Low-income Americans are granted a monthly household subsidy of $9.25 to help pay for internet and phone service. Changes proposed by Pai would prevent telecom companies that don’t provide their own infrastructure, like AT&T or Sprint, from offering the subsidized plans. About 70 percent of users are on a plan that doesn’t use its own infrastructure. The Lifeline service is paid for through special service fees on phone bills.

Here's another case where corrupt intent matters:

“I really struggle to figure out what Pai is trying to accomplish here,” said Blair Levin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan at the FCC. “He’s trying to figure out how to bridge the digital divide and yet he wants to undercut a program helping millions of Americans.” This isn’t about trying to make the rule fairer for service providers to bolster the free market, he said.

GOP officials have been grooming Pai for a possible gubernatorial run, according to a report from the New York Times. “Perhaps he wants to go run for office in Kansas and there are a lot of rural phone companies in Kansas,” said Levin. “He wants to take money away from larger companies and give it to phone companies in Kansas.”

Pai says the money will help rural telephone companies by encouraging providers to build networks there. But “the amount of money redistributed will be small, and how are they going to distribute it?" Levin asked. “Rural telephone companies have huge problems. There needs to be a much bigger, more systematic way of thinking about this.”

That wouldn't help a Republican game the system to his advantage, now would it?

Government has been corrupt on some level forever. The big money involved almost makes it inevitable. But the Trump era Republicans are more blatantly self-dealing than anything we've seen before and it's worth wondering whether they are taking their cues from the man at the top or they all just happen to be personally corrupt and they don't care who knows it. The sheer number of corrupt incidents in this administration in the first year is just astonishing.

By the way, there's also a truly malevolent consequence of this decision:

In Puerto Rico, where 550,000 people, or about 17 percent of the total population, use the Lifeline program, communities are much more isolated and poverty is much more extreme than it is in the continental United States, according to the Census Bureau. “These are rural communities two hours away from any real health care,” he said. “We’re not talking about giving these people unlimited texting. This isn’t a luxury. This is something people use to take care of their basic needs.”
Maybe he's hoping to get those Kansas phone companies a nice fat contract the way Ryan Zinke got his pals in Montana the power contract. Disaster capitalism is one of the easy paths to riches and Puerto Rico is the gift that keeps on giving.