Pai’s Policies at the FCC Should Be Continued | Citizens Against Government Waste

Pai’s Policies at the FCC Should Be Continued

The WasteWatcher

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that he would be leaving the agency on January 20, 2021.  While this announcement is not unexpected, given the longstanding precedent of agency chairmen leaving at the end of a Presidential term to make way for new leadership, it is sad to imagine an FCC without the candor, intelligence, and wit of the outgoing Chairman.

During his six years at the agency, Chairman Pai has accomplished a great deal to the benefit of all Americans.  He has pushed the needle on making a larger amount of spectrum available for auctions and spurred on the deployment of next generation 5G mobile communications.  He understood the critical significance of the U.S. winning the race to 5G ahead of countries like China.  It is not just a matter of global technological leadership; it is also a matter of national security. 

Chairman Pai has also moved forward with making more spectrum available for unlicensed use in the 5.9 GHz spectrum band, which has become critical as more Americans have increasingly relied on unlicensed spectrum to connect to the internet using Wi-Fi capabilities and devices. 

When  the pandemic struck the nation and Americans were forced to find new ways to work, study, and shop, Chairman Pai saw the need to help Americans get online quickly and safely and forged agreements with telecommunications providers who promised to Keep Americans Connected.  He also allowed temporary use of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band by Wireless Internet Service Providers, which enabled them to provide broadband services to more unserved rural communities .

Chairman Pai placed a large emphasis on bridging the digital divide in rural America, pushing forth an agenda intended to prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars by working to eliminate the use of universal service funds to overbuild broadband in areas where broadband is already available.  He also created the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund to auction available funds with the intent to increase broadband in regions of the country where broadband does not currently exist, including in tribal areas.

Under his watch and working with outgoing FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, Chairman Pai worked to limit the redirection of 9-1-1 fees by state and local governments, and on September 30, 2020 opened a notice of inquiry on how to combat fee diversions.  In the past, these diversions have been used by many of these government entities to fund non-emergency related items like general budget shortfalls and state pension funds.  He has also held the line on protecting the nation’s telecommunications networks from foreign adversaries by prohibiting government funds from being used to purchase network equipment from companies backed by certain nations like China.

Chairman Pai also led the way to overturn one of the most damaging decisions made by the FCC under the Obama-Biden administration.  The Open Internet Order (OIO), often called net neutrality, forced internet service providers (ISPs) for the first time to be subject to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, which was written to cover old fashioned dial-up telephone service.  Within his first year as chairman, the FCC adopted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which eliminated the OIO and placed the ISPs where they belong, under Title 1 as service providers.

Chairman Pai’s legacy will show that he positioned the FCC to provide a stronger, more innovative telecommunications environment that has built resilient networks through a light-touch regulatory regime.  However, the work he began is not finished.   The next FCC chairman should not push for net neutrality or undo any of the other Pai FCC decisions, many of which were bipartisan.  Instead, he or she should build on these accomplishments to assure continued international telecommunications leadership by the U.S. 

Taxpayers and consumers should take a moment to thank Chairman Pai for his great work and send a message to the next FCC that they want his policies to be expanded, not eliminated.