FCC Chairman Pai Signals a New Direction for the Agency

Federal Communications Commissioner Chairman Ajit Pai recently toured the Midwest, unveiling his priorities as Chair. The speeches should encourage states, as he signaled the FCC’s new regulatory approach.

Unlike the prior FCC administration which sought first to regulate and then to force the states to comply with those regulations, under Chairman Pai, the FCC will work with states to “bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.” The relationship between the FCC and states will be one of cooperation. The FCC will recognize where the states are best positioned to promote innovation and where the federal government can best help states.

In a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Chairman Pai identified the four principles that will guide the FCC under his Chairmanship:

  • The importance of digital empowerment;
  • The need for ubiquitous Internet access;
  • The power of competitive free markets; and
  • Light-touch regulation

The Chairman’s third and fourth principles particularly reveal a new approach. The FCC will work both to “eliminate unnecessary barriers to investment” and to “protect consumers and promote public safety.” Rather than establishing regulations based on 1930s telecommunications statutes, the FCC will focus on allowing the private sector to lead by creating new products and services.

States can also learn from the FCC’s new approach. Chairman Pai has instructed the “Commission’s bureaus to identify… rules that are raising the costs of broadband buildout.” State legislatures, governors, and other regulatory officials can do the same thing. They can instruct public utility commissions, cities, counties and other authorities to identify regulations, rules and procedures hindering and unnecessarily raising the cost of broadband buildout.

The Federal Communications Commission will work with states to bring the digital age to all Americans. This partnership will require states to be actively engaged with the FCC, and under Chairman Pai, the states will have a significant role determining how to best bring the digital age to all their residents.

In Depth: Innovation

Whether improving processes, creating products or developing new ideas, the application of technology can enable real changes in how state government works, both in quality of services delivered to constituents, cost savings and quality of life. States have the opportunity in our national balance of government power, to address policy…

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