Genachowski: FCC's Pai Can Be Inclusive, Pragmatic Chairman

Former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, now a partner at The Carlyle Group, had some encouraging words for the newest head of the agency, just one of a number of shout-outs that continued Tuesday following the senior Republican's confirmation that he had been picked by the Donald Trump Administration to succeed outgoing chairman Tom Wheeler.

"The Chairman is the chief executive of the agency, which brings a set of challenges different from being a commissioner, but Ajit has the firepower to learn what he'll need to learn," Genachowski told B&C. "He'll need to lead the agency through tough decisions in a rough and tumble environment with strongly held points of view across the spectrum, but he has the experience, the perspective and, I believe, the willingness to craft solutions that are inclusive and pragmatic. Ajit will also be able to hit the ground running, and that's important given the costs of regulatory uncertainty in such a vital part of the economy, and the need to maintain and extend U.S. leadership in mobile and broadband."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has been active on communications and tech issues, had lots of nice things to say about his fellow Republican.

"Ajit Pai is a tireless and intrepid fighter for innovators and a thoughtful advocate of policies that advance choice and competition in the telecommunications marketplace," he said. "His selection is a welcome sign of change that shows a long-overdue turnaround at the FCC is now ensured in our new administration. I look forward to working with him on solutions that will encourage investment, promote consumer choice, foster innovation and bring fresh thinking that will encourage creative disruption across the FCC's broad jurisdiction. Ajit is truly an exceptional choice and I congratulate him on this much-deserved honor."

“As a commissioner, Ajit Pai stood against the burdensome regulations that hinder technological innovation and growth," said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) "Over the years, I’ve had the chance to host him in my office for comprehensive discussions on some of the biggest challenges facing the telecommunications industry, and I welcome his expertise and leadership going forward as FCC Chairman.”

America's Public Television Stations president Patrick Butler is a Pai fan.

"America’s Public Television Stations commend President Trump for his designation of Commissioner Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC, and we congratulate Chairman Pai on his promotion," he said. "We appreciate the support Chairman Pai has given to public television on some of our most important issues at the Commission, and we look forward to working with him in his new position of leadership. The Commission and the country will benefit from his intelligence, experience, eloquence and good judgment."

David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, was another. "TPA is pleased by the choice of Commissioner Pai to lead the FCC… [He] has been an advocate for taxpayers by protecting them from subsidies that ex-Chairman Tom Wheeler attempted to give away during spectrum auctions. Commissioner Pai is also a fierce advocate for a truly open Internet, having fought against the Net Neutrality rules promulgated under ex-Chairman Wheeler. It is also critical to note that Commissioner Pai is a champion for the creative community..."

“The Media Institute offers its heartiest congratulations to Ajit Pai, who is eminently qualified and extremely well positioned to lead the Federal Communications Commission," said Media Institute chairman Patrick Maines. "As an FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to the development of sound communications policy based on competition, and to a strong First Amendment – a commitment that has benefited all Americans. Comm. Pai, who received The Media Institute’s Freedom of Speech Award in 2016, will now have the opportunity to shape more directly the future of a rapidly evolving telecom industry and the means by which all Americans communicate. Given his common-sense approach, legal knowledge, and analytical expertise, we are confident that he will excel as the next FCC Chairman.”

“CenturyLink congratulates Ajit Pai on being elevated to FCC chair, a leadership role for which he is extremely well qualified given his thorough understanding of the many challenges facing the rapidly changing communications industry,” said CenturyLink senior VP for public policy John F. Jones. “We look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Pai, who will bring a much-needed free market approach to his new role. Hopefully this will result in the thoughtful elimination of outdated, unnecessary federal regulations that stifle investment and no longer reflect rapidly evolving consumer demands and the entry of innovative, new competitors.”

But not everyone was rolling out the welcome mat. Pai is no fan of the FCC's Open Internet order, which he has pledged to roll back.

Demand Progress is no fan of the new chairman, even using his appointment as a fundraiser.

"Pai is a guy who said after Trump was elected that the neutrality's 'days are numbered' and that he would 'fire up the weed whacker' to gut protections like the open internet rule," the group said in an email to supporters Tuesday. "Pai wants to undo the free and open internet rules we won in 2015. But Demand Progress, together with you and our allies, saved the internet before, and we can do it again. Will you chip in $5 to help us fight back against Trump's anti-net neutrality FCC chairman?"

One of the impediments that has been cited to those broadband buildouts are such environmental impact reviews.
"As with many appointments by Mr. Trump, I am concerned that as Chairman, Commissioner Pai will work for policies that benefit special interests and Big Cable, which have sought for years to control access to content on the internet above the interests of the American people," said Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.