New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday said he plans to “preserve a free and open internet” but noted utility-style regulations are not necessary to reach that goal.
In his keynote address, Pai said the FCC made a mistake during former President Obama’s second term when it introduced “uncertainty” into the market with its strong regulation. The result, he said, was a cooling effect on broadband investment – which he said was down for the first time in the wake of the FCC’s 2015 actions – and concerns among industry players about whether the Commission would permit them to come out innovative new service plans. By way of example, Pai pointed to the Commission’s recent decision to drop an investigation into zero-rating programs that was begun under former Chairman Tom Wheeler and the subsequent move by all four major carriers to introduce such programs.
Moving forward, Pai said the FCC will seek to promote investment in the networks of the future without heavy-handed regulation, and will return to a light-touch approach he said facilitated an investment boom in the past. Investment, he observed, will be critical to create the smart networks – rather than dumb pipes – necessary for future technologies.
Though he didn’t name specific regulations, Pai said the FCC will “embrace what works and dispense what doesn’t.” The Commission, he said will take “targeted action to address real problems” instead of using broad strokes to prevent hypothetical harms.
On the consolidation front, Pai said he believes in “regulatory humility” and said any decisions from the Commission should be based on “well-established laws and precedents” in conjunction with consideration of current market conditions to ensure consumers are protected and incentives for investment remain. Pai said it will be important to stick to those principles to avoid being sucked into a partisan fray in which he would become “nothing more than a political actor.”
Separately this week at Mobile World Congress, Pai indicated there’s “no current reason” for the Commission to review AT&T and Time Warner’s proposed merger since no spectrum licenses will be transferred. More on that from the Wall Street Journal here.
Filed Under: Industry regulations