FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Friday refused to rule out the possibility of consolidation in the wireless space, noting that the Commission’s main objective is to ensure the market benefits consumers rather than forcing an arbitrary number of competitors.
“My approach to the regulatory role is one of humility,” Pai shared. “I don’t claim to know in a vacuum what the optimal market structure of any particular marketplace is, what the ‘right’ number of competitors should be. Our goal is always to make sure the marketplace functions in a way that benefits the public interest.”
Pai’s comments came in response to a question on wireless mergers following a speech he delivered Friday at the American Enterprise Institute recapping his first 100 days as Chairman.
“To me at least, we take a look at the marketplace as it stands try to figure out: is there competition, are prices going down, is application and service innovation going up – those kinds of things – and make the appropriate judgement,” he continued. “That’s the framework I’m going to apply going forward if there’s any transaction reviews.”
In terms of the current state of the market, at least, Pai was clear that he views the wireless space as “very competitive” and reiterated that a “light touch” regulatory approach will help keep it that way.
Pai also suggested the lines between wireless and wireline service will continue to blur as technology advances and the former becomes a more reliable way to connect.
“Especially as 4G LTE gets rolled out, as 5G networks with gigabit throughput or even more become possible, as the next generation of WiFi comes on board – so we’re able to, for instance, free up 5 GHz spectrum or even 60 and 70 GHz spectrum for wireless innovation – I think we’re increasingly going to see that wireless is not just this imperfect substitute for wired connections,” he said. “It is going to be the dominant means by which people access the internet, the preferable means. And so I think the FCC needs to take stock of that and make the appropriate policy decisions as a result.”
Pai’s full speech and Q&A session at AEI can be viewed here.
Filed Under: Industry regulations