Reaction to Pai FCC Chairmanship Pours In

Reaction from D.C. began flooding in Monday as President-elect Donald Trump's pick of senior Republican Ajit Pai for FCC chairman became official.

"We congratulate Ajit Pai on his well-deserved appointment to be Chairman of the FCC," said Michael Powell, chairman of NCTA: The Internet & Television Association. "During his tenure on the Commission, Chairman Pai has consistently demonstrated a common-sense philosophy that consumers are best served by a robust marketplace that encourages investment, innovation and competition.  We stand ready to assist Chairman Pai and his colleagues in their effort to promote policies which ensure that America remains a global internet, communications and entertainment leader.”

“Today we welcome a new era of leadership and decision making at the FCC,” said House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore), and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Ten.). “Commissioner Pai’s expertise on the issues has been well documented and we’re looking forward to working with him to advance conservative, thoughtful solutions at the FCC.”

“Commissioner Pai is well known for his intellectual rigor, passion for innovative ideas and technologies, and adherence to the letter and spirit of the law,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.). “I enjoy his can-do attitude, admire his principled transparency, and share his commitment to rural communities. I look forward to working with him as he steps into his new role as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.”

“We congratulate Ajit Pai on his appointment as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission," said Comcast EVP David Cohen, the company's top policy exec. "He has served with great distinction as a Commissioner over the past four and a half years, and has demonstrated that he is highly qualified to lead the Commission. We commend his tireless efforts to develop and support policies that benefit American consumers and spur greater investment and innovation in broadband technologies to connect all Americans and drive job creation. This is a terrific appointment for the American consumer and the companies the FCC regulates and we look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Pai in his new role.”

“Ajit Pai is an exceptional choice to head the Federal Communications Commission," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "He’s a thoughtful, forward-looking and energetic leader who has never forgotten his roots in rural Kansas, and the need to deliver high-speed broadband access to all parts of our country.

"We share Commissioner Pai's vision for a ‘Broadband First’ future based on a bold but pragmatic strategy to erase the many regulatory barriers impeding the expansion of our nation's communications infrastructure, and the jobs and economic opportunity that depend on it," said Spalter. "I am excited to work with the new chairman -- as well as with the new Administration and Congress --  to advance policies, partnerships, and programs that will bring broadband's benefits to all our families, communities, and businesses, and ensure our nation's telecommunications innovators can invest and compete on a level regulatory playing field.”

"Commissioner Pai is a champion for innovation, leading the way on key issues that impact the growth of our modern communications networks, ensuring consumers' access to those networks in underserved areas and cautioning against unnecessary, growth-chilling regulation," said Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro. "CTA looks forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Pai to tackle challenging issues, including the allocation of additional spectrum licensed and unlicensed bands to power consumers' growing demand for anytime/anywhere connectivity and expanding broadband access and digital opportunity to all Americans."

“Since joining the commission in 2012, Commissioner Pai has shown a commitment to solving rural broadband challenges and to thinking creatively about ways our country can more effectively deploy and sustain advanced communications in rural America," said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield.

Pai is from a small town in Kansas and is a big backer of rural broadband connectivity. "In an address to the NTCA membership in early 2013, Commissioner Pai was the first of his colleagues to call for universal service to enable broadband services in areas served by our members," said Bloomfield, "and Commissioner Pai has consistently placed a spotlight on the kinds of resources and resourcefulness needed to connect America. Having grown up in a small town in Kansas and noting in his address to NTCA members that ‘rural America is different,’ he has a deep and genuine understanding of how the services that NTCA members deliver improve the quality of life and promote economic development in our rural communities."

“CCA fully supports the nomination of Commissioner Pai as the next Chairman of the FCC,” said Competitive Carriers Association President Steven Berry. “Commissioner Pai is an avowed believer in creating a regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation, and strongly believes in policies that respect the technological changes of today’s marketplace.  He has made his office open to CCA members, and with his roots in Kansas, certainly understands the importance of ensuring high-speed mobile broadband all across the country, including rural areas.”

“I congratulate Commissioner Pai on his nomination and look forward to our continued work with the entire Commission on creating a more competitive ecosystem for the benefit of carriers and consumers alike.” 

“As FCC Chairman, commissioner Pai will be a champion of consumers in all corners of the country during this time of profound wireless innovation," said Diane Smith, interim chair of Mobile Future. "His forward-thinking leadership will be instrumental in expanding the infrastructure needed to support the opportunity-rich transition to a 5G future. We are confident he will maintain a razor-sharp focus on creating an environment that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship, and have no doubt the FCC will be a catalyst for progress under his chairmanship.” 

"I congratulate Ajit Pai on his elevation to Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. From personal experience I know it to be an intensely challenging but intensely rewarding job,” said former FCC Chairman Michael Copps, now an advisor to Common Cause.

"As a bit of unsolicited advice I encourage the new Chairman to take the Commission outside of Washington, so Commissioners can meet with and hear from the people who live with the policies they make. I am totally convinced the majority of Americans, including many who voted for the new president, strongly favor an open internet and a media ecosystem that is up to the task of informing democracy,” he added.

"Chairman Pai brings invaluable experience and insight that is sure to benefit American consumers and businesses through sound policymaking," said the Internet Innovation Alliance. "IIA looks forward to working with Chairman Pai and the entire Commission on new policies to advance investment and deployment of 21st century, next-generation, high-speed broadband networks."

Pai was a strong opponent of the FCC's Title II approach to Open Internet rules, but Public Knowledge is hoping for a change of heart.

“Commissioner Pai has a history of attacking consumer protections, from the Open Internet order to our right to privacy online," said Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman. "Even so, every Commissioner who has been elevated to Chairman discovers the job is very different from what he or she thought it would be. Most quickly discover that getting things done while running an agency sometimes requires a different set of skills as well as a willingness to compromise.

“With this in mind, we urge Chairman Pai to preserve consumer protections and to focus on driving down prices and expanding choices for all essential communications services while preserving the Commission’s recent pro-competitive and consumer protection rules and actions.”

Two things are certain: The Federal Communications Commission is uniquely situated to improve the everyday lives of all Americans and Chairman Pai now has the honor and bears the weight of responsibility of leading that agency into the future," said the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "NHMC is hopeful that Chairman Pai will be truly open to the diverse viewpoints of all stakeholders as he leads his agency in service of the people of this country and the public interest.

“Chairman Pai’s views have often diverged from those of NHMC and other groups representing the voices of communities of color and vulnerable populations on a number of key telecommunications issues— namely the importance of preserving the open internet, support for critical programs striving for universal access to broadband like Lifeline and E-Rate, the impact of increasing consolidation on the media and telecommunications industries, and the ongoing fight for prison phone justice. NHMC urges Chairman Pai to begin his new term with a commitment to achieving the fundamental goals of the FCC: increasing diversity, enforcing rules that protect consumers, striving for truly universal service, and fostering real competition.”

Hardly had Pai's statement confirming his new job been released when Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Communications Subcommittee ranking member Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) revealed they had already sent him a letter asking for a series of commitments, saying it would increase the likelihood of success for his term:

Those were:

1. "You will ensure that the Commission will brief relevant Committee leadership—no matter their party—on all major decisions before the Commission acts and that you will be responsive to all Congressional inquiries.

2. "You will work with your colleagues in a bi-partisan fashion to reach consensus before moving ahead with major policy decisions.

3. "You will not take any effort to retaliate against, undermine, demote or marginalize civil servants on the basis of their analysis or their work under previous Commission leadership."

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.