Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, wants to eliminate obsolete regulations that, in his view, hold back innovation and competition. He may even use a garden implement, figuratively speaking, to clear out the regulatory underbrush.
He is also championing an effort to expand high-speed broadband.
An FCC commissioner since May, 2012, free-market advocate Pai became chairman of the agency on January 23 upon the resignation of Obama appointee Tom Wheeler.
Pai, 44, has already been subject to criticism from those who believe that rolling back the regulatory burden on industry automatically harms the consumer.
“Pai consistently opposed consumer protection regulations during the three-year chairmanship of Democrat Tom Wheeler,” ARS Technica claimed.
With President Trump now in the White House, Republicans have a 2-1 majority on the commission, with two vacancies yet to be filled, one of whom will be a Republican.
As a sitting member, Ajit Pai was able to obtain the gavel without U.S. Senate confirmation, but he will need to go through the confirmation process later this year in order to serve an additional five-year term.
In December, Pai gave a speech in which he said that “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Particularly, as it relates to small business job creation, President Trump has vowed to eliminate two regulations for every new one implemented across the entire federal government sector.
The son of Indian immigrants who settled in Kansas, Harvard graduate Ajit Pai earned a law degree from the University of Chicago and worked for all three branches of the federal government as well as Verizon, and was an FCC staff lawyer for about four years before his appointment as commissioner.
“Pai has been an outspoken defender of free speech and freedom of the press, as he’s worked to expose the FCC’s politicization since he joined the agency in 2012,” the Washington Free Beacon noted. On several occasions, the commissioner warned about what he considered FCC attempts to silence voices in the media that dissented from the Obama agenda.
As things stand today, one of the rules that could be on the chopping block is that governing net neutrality, which, in December, Pai suggested that its “days are numbered.” It remains to be seen, however, if dismantling or eliminating net neutrality will be as easy as Pai, as it were.
In a party line vote on February 26, 2015, with the Democrats holding the majority at the time, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of a complicated 300-plus-page set of regulations that reclassifies Internet Service Providers as so-called common carriers or public utilities, like old-time phone companies, thereby making them subject to federal government regulation. The FCC derived its regulatory authority to do so from Title II of the vintage Communications Act of 1934.
A detailed discussion from Business Insider about net neutrality can be found here. Check it out and draw your own conclusions about the pros and cons.
Chairman Pai has insisted that he favors a free and open internet, but not the Title II net neutrality regulatory regime, which he argued at the time would give the agency the ability to micromanage every aspect of the web.
In the video interview below with Reason, Ajit Pai outlined his views on net neutrality with more specificity.
“Two years ago, Pai called the net neutrality a ‘secret plan to regulate the internet’ in voicing his dissent to the FCC’s Open Internet Order. Large internet companies like Google and Netflix have backed network neutrality, while cable and telco providers are fighting it in federal court,” Variety explained.
Wheeler himself reportedly opposed net neutrality until he was prodded in the other direction by Obama.
Separately, Chairman Pai has launched a transparency initiative to release the full text of proposed FCC regulations into the public domain before the commissioners vote on them.
“For the first time in the FCC’s history, officials say, regular Americans will be able to review the decisions in advance that increasingly affect the technology and networks that Americans rely on every day,” the Washington Post detailed.
Continuing a trend since he took over, the FCC under Ajit Pai published a number of decisions today that reverse measures taken under the Wheeler chairmanship, Deadline Hollywood reported.
[Featured Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]