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FCC's Pai Begins Identifying Broadband-Related Regs to Cut

FCC chairman Ajit Pai says he has begun the process of identifying broadband buildout-hampering regulations and will begin scrapping them once they are so identified. He also says he supports making broadband part of an infrastructure bill but has definite ideas about how that money should be spent.

That came in a speech Wednesday at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

"I’ve instructed all of the Commission’s bureaus to identify FCC rules that are raising the costs of broadband buildout," he said. "If the benefits of those rules don’t outweigh their costs, we’ll begin the process of repealing them." 

"I believe that every American who wants to participate in our digital economy should be able to," he said. "Access to digital opportunity shouldn’t depend on who you are or where you’re from. Whether you live in Manhattan, New York or Manhattan, Montana (population: 1,520), we want you to be digitally empowered."

Pai early on signaled that broadband access and connectivity, particularly in rural areas, would be a priority under his chairmanship.

That digital participation was one of the four guiding principles Pai outlined, the others being the power of internet-based technology to create jobs, that the free market is key to investment and innovation, and that a "healthy respect" for that free market does not mean the government has no role. He said that government role includes protecting consumers, promoting public safety and freeing up more wireless spectrum.

Pai said he supports the President's vision for a major infrastructure upgrade bill and added that it should include broadband, but he said had some advice on how the broadband investments should be made. One is that the money should be administered through the FCC's Universal Service Fund. Secondly, Congress should include his proposal for Gigabit Opportunity Zones, where tax incentives would be provided for ISPs to supply high-speed broadband in low-income neighborhoods.

He said directing the money through the USF fund would help prevent waste, fraud and abuse and that the FCC has the expertise already in place.