As the freshly minted Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai has made it clear that bringing the “digital opportunity” to all Americans is one of his principal goals as leader of the Commission.
In his opening remarks Wednesday at a Senate Commerce Committee FCC oversight hearing held on a balmy day in Washington, Pai made it clear that he’s springing into action on four key areas he plans on emphasizing “so long as I am privileged to serve as Chairman.”
The first key area of focus for Pai: Closing the Digital Divide
“There is a real and growing digital divide in America,” Pai says. “In wealthier, metropolitan areas, 4G LTE is ubiquitous, and gigabit fixed service is expanding. But, many rural areas are being left behind.”
He noted his travels to areas of West Virginia, Alaska, Kansas, and South Dakota — in a nod to Sen. Thune — and noted his conversations with people “who worry that without broadband, they and their children won’t have the ability to compete and prosper in the 21st century.”
He cited the Mobility Fund Phase II and the FCC’s Feb. 23 vote to finalize the rules for allocating nearly $2 billion from the Connect America Fund, which aims to advance fixed broadband service across the country, positive steps toward bringing needed access to rural areas.
The second key priority area for Pai’s FCC is Promoting Innovation. He notes, “Under my leadership, I want the FCC to facilitate, not frustrate, innovation.”
It’s why the FCC in February started a proceeding “aimed at allowing television broadcasters to innovate and fully enter the digital era,” he says.
The third focus area for Pai is Protecting Consumers and Public Safety.
“The FCC’s core mission has always been to serve the broader public interest, and that means protecting consumers and keeping the public safe,” Pai says. “We have made progress on each front in just a month and a half.”
Lastly, Pai is intent on reforming the FCC’s processes, and introducing more transparency to the Commission.
These efforts are being seen with bipartisan cooperation, something Pai says has allowed the FCC under his leadership to “hit the ground running.”
He says, “What we have accomplished so far is a tremendous credit to the nonpartisan, federal employees of the agency—our hard-working professional staff, who are the agency’s strongest assets. It is a credit to my colleagues Commissioner Clyburn and Commissioner O’Rielly, who have been integral in moving the agenda forward and doing so time after time on a bipartisan basis. And it is a credit to you, our congressional overseers, as well as other elected officials like Sen. Schumer, who have highlighted the many issues the FCC must tackle in a bipartisan manner. These past six weeks have only re-affirmed my view that no FCC office or floor holds a monopoly on wisdom.”