Broadband

Ajit Pai named new FCC Chair

President Donald Trump elevated Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai to Chairman of the Commission. This news should hearten free market and limited government advocates and friends, as his elevation represents an opportunity to right the regulatory ship, allowing entrepreneurs to solve problems rather than the FCC.

For the past few years, the Commission has promulgated rules issued interpretations expanding its authority at the expense of broadband deployment and state authority over municipalities. Under the direction of the previous chair, additionally, the Commission often strayed outside of its understood authority into areas best described as Congress’s purview.  While most of the expansive rules were met with cheers from pro-government groups, federal courts repeatedly ruled against the Commission.

While the Commission has expanded its own authority, this is not to say the Commission’s concerns are invalid. Many of the problems the Commission sought to address, such as quality broadband deployment in economically depressed and rural areas, are noble causes. The approach assumed by the Commission under the past chair, has not solved the problems.

The new chair has long recognized many of the broadband problems Americans face. Rather than proposing mandate-heavy regulations, he has called for market-driven solutions.

For example, in a 2016 speech, now Chairman Pai called on the FCC to partner with states and local governments to create Gigabit Opportunity Zones and for reduced regulatory burdens relating to broadband deployment. The Gigabit Opportunity Zones, modeled after the late Jack Kemp’s enterprise zones, would incentivize private-sector gigabit broadband deployment to areas where the average household income falls below 75 percent of the national median. The incentives would come in the form of various tax credits and accounting measures.

Regulations, along with bureaucratic red tape, at all levels hinder broadband deployment. Chairman Pai proposed using the FCC’s statutory authority to “ensure that local governments don’t [sic] stand in the way of broadband deployment.” After citing specific laws, he continued stating that “Congress gave the Commission the express authority to preempt any state or local regulation that prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide wired or wireless service.”

Commissioner Pai has been a steady voice in favor of a regulatory light touch to Internet and broadband regulation. He has a solid commitment to the free market, and this commitment will serve the Federal Communications Commission well as he takes the organization’s helm.


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