FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly will never be confused with a consumer advocate or champion of the people. He’s voted down nearly every consumer-friendly FCC initiative that has come down the pike, whether that’s net neutrality, raising the base definition of broadband to 25 Mbps, or fighting back against state protectionist broadband laws written by ISPs to protect their uncompetitive geographic fiefdoms. O’Rielly most recently made waves by proudly declaring, as an employee of an agency tasked with ensuring timely deployment of broadband to all Americans, that he really didn’t think broadband was all that necessary.
Hand in hand with anti-net-neutrality Commissioner Ajit Pai, a former Verizon regulatory lawyer, the two form sort of a knee-jerk, objectionist Commission superhero that opposes everything in its path under the pretense of a deeper, mysteriously undefinable ethos. The dynamic duo have even objected to holding AT&T accountable for ripping off taxpayer money earmarked for the poor.
With that as a backdrop, it was entertaining to see CNET push forth a bit of a puff piece helping O’Rielly portray himself as some sort of unfairly ostracized hero of the Commission, whose insights aren’t being taken seriously:
“It takes time and effort to soldier on and make your arguments,” he said…”I do the work you’d expect me to do. I read every item. I do my homework. And I make substantive suggestions. But I’m often shot down.”
Of course it’s actually O’Rielly that’s doing the shooting, bravely voting no on nearly every single issue of the day. When AT&T was fined for throttling “unlimited” connections and lying about it, O’Rielly stood up for the little guy, bravely calling the FCC’s behavior “Draconian” (Pai, in contrast, compared the FCC’s behavior to Kafka). Still, O’Rielly lays the blame at the feet of Wheeler and company:
“O’Rielly and his Republican colleague, Ajit Pai, have opposed all the major Democrat-supported issues that have passed, in large part due to philosophical differences they have with their colleagues across the political aisles on these issues. But O’Rielly said what has truly frustrated him is what he sees as an unwillingness by the FCC leadership to find consensus on any issue.
Partisan patty cake at the Commission is certainly nothing new. Except as we’ve noted, most people on both sides of the aisle think Wheeler is actually doing a shockingly good job for a former industry lobbyist many expected little from. He’s shaken off fifteen years of the status quo, and is actually doing something about the woeful state of broadband competition instead of paying politically-safe lip service to the idea. He also managed to implement real net neutrality protections, an idea that’s supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.
It’s repeatedly unclear to me how you can be a career obstructionist, then cry when policy and conversation moves on without you. Indeed, O’Rielly tells CNET he’s just a hard working fellow who desperately wishes the there was “more receptivity to finding common ground.” CNET responds by failing to ask O’Rielly a single difficult question regarding how he aligns this hallucinated persona with his actual anti-consumer and anti-Internet voting record.