Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner of the USA Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently did a one hour Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit.
The FCC has recently been the center of much debate and controversy. Some weeks ago they gained the collective ire of the US when they failed to make a decision on net neutrality and choose instead to push the issue back until early 2015. There is also a controversy regarding the lack of options most consumers in the US have regarding broadband providers. A potential merger between the media giants Time Warner and Comcast is another touchy topic, as is the fact that wireless internet is in the US capped strictly. Atop of these sits the claim that, heavily substantiated, that the US pays more money for inferior internet service and speeds, without mentioning the fact that is still not equal access to the internet everyone in the country. Making maters even worse for FCC, the current chairman, Tom Wheeler, is a former lobbyist for the Telecommunications corporations he is now expected to regulate, and Vice has recently obtained records illustrating that there is a ‘Cozy Social Network’ between the FCC and Telecommunications corporations.
Carrying all this baggage, the Commissioner went into a Reddit AMA. In her introduction she stated:
Before moving to Washington, I served 11 years on the Public Service Commission representing the great state of South Carolina. What excites me the most about this position, is the ability to work every day on issues that affect all Americans: from expanding access to broadband, to ensuring reliable telephone and television service. And speaking of tv, I am a huge fan of vintage shows, love to add pecans to my morning yogurt, and if I could get away with it on a regular basis, would consume large scoops of Butterfinger ice cream every night. While I am a bit partial to the colors purple and blue, I remain loyal to Garnet and Black, aka The University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks!)
I’m Ready for Reddit, so ask me anything!
Ready for Reddit, she certainly did not seem. Obviously, stemming from the recent infamy of the agency she works for, no questions were addressed to her as a person or as a professional, as one normally finds in AMAs. In light of the controversies listed above, and as well because media corporations in the United States are considered to hold near monopolistic power, most of the questions were clearly aggressive. Some of the questions addressed to her were poignant, for instance:
Why do I only have one option for high speed internet and television at my house?
Other questions, were simply loaded, as in this instance:
Why is it seemingly so easy for big business to bribe all you guys?
As well as this one:
How much money have you taken from Comcast lobbyists?
And being the internet, obviously some of the questions were simply and pointlessly vitriolic, as in:
Does it bother you that everyone here dislikes you and everyone you work with?
Mignon Clyburn managed to answer about twenty-five questions in the time allotted, selecting through for the better questions. The answers, as one would expect, are merely the standard issue talking points we have already heard from the FCC.
The aggressiveness of this AMA was to be expected. The lighthearted tone with which the Commissioner began it, on the other hand, seems out of place. It would suggest, as many have suggested before, that perhaps the FCC does not understand the internet as well as they should.