As he concludes his time as FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai joins NAB President Gordon Smith for a look back at the past four years, the biggest challenges he faced (and they were big), as well as what he anticipates for ATSC 3.0, TV regulations, social media, changing media consumption habits, maintaining a competitive marketplace, closing the digital divide… and why it’s always better to bike to work.
“We’re also pleased that we at NAB have this opportunity to hear from him, literally on his last official day as FCC Chairman,” Smith says. “Chairman Pai has been a champion of free and local broadcasting since he first joined the FCC a good time ago. His fair, thoughtful approach to regulation led to many common-sense reforms that were long overdue.
“Most notably, he modernized the commission’s media ownership rules, authorized and promoted the transition to the NextGen TV standard, and I think historically helped revitalize the AM radio band, and as any good Republican should do, he cleared out some significant regulatory underbrush that was no longer serving the public interest,” Smith continues.
“In addition to his many policy achievements, he demonstrated great leadership, always wonderful creativity, a new way to get something done, and overriding all of that, and undergirding it, was a sense of humor that was ingratiating, and always provided to us and others an open door, an open heart, an open mind.
“I think history will record that Chairman Pai has recognized broadcaster’s vital role in our communities, noting their resiliency and dedication to public service,” Smith concludes. “He’s often done that, and much appreciated. Localism and journalism are under tremendous assault, but he never lost sight of the unique and indispensable role that broadcasters play. We’re grateful to Chairman Pai and the FCC for working with us, lo these many years, to address our concerns.”
About Ajit Pai
Ajit Pai was designated Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Donald J. Trump in January 2017. He had previously served as Commissioner at the FCC, appointed by then-President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate in May 2012.
Chairman Pai’s regulatory philosophy is informed by a few simple principles. Rules that reflect these principles will result in more innovation, more investment, better products and services, lower prices, more job creation, and faster economic growth.
- Consumers benefit most from competition, not preemptive regulation. Free markets have delivered more value to American consumers than highly regulated ones.
- No regulatory system should indulge arbitrage; regulators should be skeptical of pleas to regulate rivals, dispense favors, or otherwise afford special treatment.
- Particularly given how rapidly the communications sector is changing, the FCC should do everything it can to ensure that its rules reflect the realities of the current marketplace and basic principles of economics.
- As a creature of Congress, the FCC must respect the law as set forth by the legislature.
- The FCC is at its best when it proceeds on the basis of consensus; good communications policy knows no partisan affiliation.
Broadband is critical in modern American life. Especially when it comes to innovation, the Internet has leveled the playing field. It’s created a phenomenon that Chairman Pai calls the “democratization of entrepreneurship.” With a good idea and a broadband connection, entrepreneurs anywhere can compete in ways unthinkable a generation ago.
Yet too many Americans still don’t have broadband. They are left on the other side of the “digital divide.” Chairman Pai has seen this for himself, from Barrow, Alaska to Fayetteville, West Virginia.
That’s why he has proposed a comprehensive plan to promote broadband deployment to all Americans. The federal government must make it easier to for broadband providers to retire increasingly obsolete copper lines in favor of next-generation technologies like fiber. It must enable rural residents to have the same choice for stand-alone broadband typically found in cities. It must create a roadmap for state and local governments so that companies that want to compete in the broadband market don’t have to jump through unnecessary regulatory hoops in order to lay fiber to consumers. It must promote common-sense policies like “Dig Once” and reform pole attachment rules to reduce the costs of building digital networks. It must streamline the process for deploying wireless infrastructure, from big towers to small cells. It must free up more licensed spectrum for use by wireless carriers and more unlicensed spectrum for things like Wi-Fi. And it must preserve Internet freedom here and abroad, so that the online world can flourish free from heavy-handed government intervention.
Chairman Pai has been an outspoken defender of First Amendment freedoms. When the FCC proposed to send researchers into newsrooms to question why reporters cover some stories and not others, Chairman Pai sounded the alarm. Soon after, the FCC canceled the study. Chairman Pai has also spoken out about threats to free speech here and abroad and has warned against government efforts to regulate the marketplace of ideas.
Public safety is a top priority for Chairman Pai. He took action to ensure that consumers can reach emergency services whenever they dial 911. He has also called on the FCC to help law enforcement combat the rising threat posed by contraband cellphones in our jails and prisons. And he’s pushed for the advancement of Next Generation 911, an Internet-based system which will help keep Americans safe.
Chairman Pai has fought to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs. He was the first commissioner to demand an end to corporate welfare in a recent major spectrum auction; the agency ultimately agreed, saving taxpayers over $3 billion. He has been outspoken against the waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program, leading an investigation into the issue. And he wants to make sure that every federal program under the FCC’s purview gets the most bang for the buck.
Taking the Initiative and Getting Results
In addition to the accomplishments mentioned above, Chairman Pai was the first member of the FCC in over two decades to call for revitalizing the AM radio band; the basic reforms he proposed were adopted in 2015. He also urged the FCC to create a task force to study the “Internet Protocol Transition” and report on obsolete rules that could be repealed; that task force was created. He proposed a way for the FCC to address petitions filed by the public much more quickly; that “rocket docket” is now in place and has dramatically sped up the agency’s decision-making. With respect to outside review and oversight, in at least half a dozen high-profile cases in which he dissented, federal courts of appeals have upheld his position. And in other such cases, one or both Houses of Congress has passed legislation consistent with his position.