Matt Wood, vice president of policy and general counsel at the liberal group Free Press, unleashed bizarre outbursts against FCC commissioners nominated by President Donald Trump, days after the FCC launched an investigation into nonprofits that may have abused FCC-granted broadband privileges to fund Free Press. The FCC also announced a new policy opening 2.5 GHz broadband to Native American tribes and more, in an effort to ensure American leadership in 5G telecommunications.
“You just have to love how, in the GOP FCC’s vaunted “regulatory humility” vision, [Commissioner Brendan Carr] is now not only the unofficial mayor of San Jose, he’s also an FEC and IRS commissioner,” Wood tweeted Wednesday during an FCC meeting.
You just have to love how, in the GOP FCC's vaunted "regulatory humility" vision, @BrendanCarrFCC is now not only the unofficial mayor of San Jose, he's also an FEC and IRS commissioner. #FCCLive @sliccardo
— Matt Wood (@mattfwood) July 10, 2019
At that meeting, the FCC discussed the investigation launched into liberal pro-Net Neutrality nonprofit Voqal, which funds Free Press Action Fund. Commissioner Brendan Carr raised questions about Voqal’s use of government-provided broadband, extended to the organization in order to serve schools.
Despite reporting $9 million in revenue and $30 million in assets for the 2016 tax year, Voqal only spent $47,095 on “providing schools with free or low cost wireless Internet.” Yet that same year, Voqal reported paying $642,346 to “EBS Support Services LLC,” including $403,832 for employee salaries. Schwartz himself is paid by the contractor.
Worse, Voqal has boasted about supporting Net Neutrality activism against the FCC, while making money using FCC-granted broadband. An investigation is arguably overdue, and Carr mentioned the investigation at the meeting Wednesday.
The investigation explains Wood’s complaint that Carr sees himself as “an FEC and an IRS commissioner.” In the investigation, Carr is seeking to ascertain whether or not Voqal and other such groups violated IRS rules about nonprofits and rules for broadband licensees. This is entirely in his jurisdiction as an FCC commissioner, but Wood is arguably seeking to undermine the investigation by making it seem an abuse of Carr’s authority.
The “unofficial mayor of San Jose” hit is even more bizarre. Wood seems to have launched this attack in response to Carr’s criticism of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
“San Jose is one of America’s greatest hubs of online innovation. So why has the Capital of Silicon Valley fallen behind when it comes to fast, affordable broadband? The answer: San Jose’s 5G Tax,” Carr tweeted last November.
San Jose is one of America's greatest hubs of online innovation. So why has the Capital of Silicon Valley fallen behind when it comes to fast, affordable broadband?
The answer: San Jose's 5G Tax.https://t.co/THGf9kWRsG
— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) November 14, 2018
His tweet linked to an op-ed in The Mercury News attacking Liccardo for instituting a tax on small cells set up by wireless providers.
“Instead of embracing 5G, Mayor Sam Liccardo taxed it. Beginning in 2015, the city sought up to $3,500 per year per small cell. Compare that to $100 in Phoenix and $50 in Indianapolis — cities about the size of San Jose that have leapfrogged it in terms of small cell deployment,” Carr wrote.
He lamented the predicable results of the tax: “If you want less of something, you tax it, and that’s exactly what San Jose got. Here’s the small cell scorecard for the 10th largest city in the United States — 2015: zero; 2016: zero; 2017, zero; and 2018: zero (until a few weeks ago when San Jose approved its very first small cell and now reportedly has 86).”
When Liccardo attacked the FCC for failing to “provide digital equality for millions of children in low-income neighborhoods,” Carr shot back, tweeting, “We must do better than Mayor Liccardo’s failed broadband policies. Under his 3+ year leadership, San Jose approved zero small cells-ZERO-depriving residents of broadband options. It fell behind peer cities & the digital divide there only widened.”
We must do better than Mayor Liccardo’s failed broadband policies. Under his 3+ year leadership, San Jose approved zero small cells-ZERO-depriving residents of broadband options. It fell behind peer cities & the digital divide there only widened. https://t.co/jh1zkWXbNd
— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) November 8, 2018
Criticizing a mayor for bad policies does not make an FCC commissioner “the unofficial mayor of San Jose.”
Yet Wood continued the disingenuous attacks, targeting FCC Chairman Ajit Pai … for referencing the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) victory at the Women’s World Cup in his remarks.
“I bet [Ajit Pai] associating his questionable spectrum policy choices with successful play by the [USWNT] would be hugely popular with players he’s trying to co-opt,” the Free Press leader tweeted.
Sardonically, he added, “Doesn’t Pai know that real ‘Muricans root AGAINST the women’s team for their disloyalty to dear leader, and root FOR the country that gave us freedom fries?”
Doesn't Pai know that real 'Muricans root AGAINST the women's team for their disloyalty to dear leader, and root FOR the country that gave us freedom fries? #FCCLive
— Matt Wood (@mattfwood) July 10, 2019
Perhaps the USWNT players would disagree with the FCC’s policy. But Wood’s second jab is ridiculous. Clearly, he does not agree with the idea that real Americans should root against the USWNT, but he is presenting a caricature of Republican Trump supporters in order to mock the FCC chairman. (After all, Trump himself cheered the USWNT win. Does that make Trump disloyal… to himself?)
Thankfully, it seems Wood’s outbursts did not resonate with users online. His most popular tweet, the attack on Carr, received one “retweet” and eight “likes,” while Carr’s tweet criticizing Liccardo’s policies received 51 “retweets” and 86 “likes.”
Even so, Wood’s outbursts are notable, and seem to suggest that the FCC investigation has struck a nerve.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.