A native Kansan that recently visited with the area’s entrepreneurial community will now head the Federal Communications Commission.
President Donald Trump selected Ajit Pai, the senior Republican on the FCC to lead the commission, which regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
“I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States for designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,” Pai said in his official statement. “I look forward to working with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”
A native of Parsons, Kan., Pai is familiar with the energy of Kansas City’s startup community and visited the metro to connect with entrepreneurs at least twice in 2016. Pai is a graduate of Harvard University and worked as a lawyer in Washington D.C. Former President Barack Obama nominated Pai to the FCC in 2012.
On Twitter, Pai added, “From broadband to broadcast, I believe in a 21st-century version of Jefferson’s 2nd Inaugural: we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats.”
Pai typically voted against former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, most notably on the move to establish net neutrality rules. Net neutrality is defined as the principle that Internet service providers should allow access to all content regardless of its source.
Here is what he told Startland News in 2015 during his visit to the Kansas City Startup Village:
“My great concern with net neutrality was that I didn’t want to adopt rules that inadvertently stand in the way of innovation on networks,” Pai said. “We heard from a number of smaller companies that these rules will disproportionately benefit the bigger companies — the Comcasts, AT&Ts and Verizons of the world — who have lawyers and accountants that have a greater incentive to discriminate on a network. My preference would be instead of preemptive regulation of the entire industry is to rely on the FCC and Federal Trade Commission to focus in a targeted way on the companies that may be misbehaving.”
Pai added that there is a bipartisan consensus on net neutrality, and most believe that the Internet should be unfettered from federal and state regulation. Pai warns against politicizing broadband.
“Broadband being politicized is the worst thing that can happen to arguably one of the greatest free market success stories of the 21st Century,” Pai told Startland News. “We take it for granted how far we’ve come over the last 25 years regarding broadband innovation, and I’d hate to see that fall into political affiliations or talking points.”
Not all of Pai’s politics are as divisive as net neutrality. One of Pai’s key issues is connecting rural communities to high-speed Internet to encourage innovation.
In October, Pai visited Think Big and shared with local entrepreneurs six strategic steps that he believes would close the digital divide. During that talk, Pai expressed the desire for gigabit opportunity zones, reform rules governing pole attachments that will make it easier on ISPs, speed up the employment of broadband on federal lands and more.
“Everyone should have online opportunity,” Pai told the community at Think Big. “There is no limit to what Americans could achieve if they become participants in as opposed to spectators of the digital economy.”
The president can appoint to the FCC without approval from the senate, thus his nomination is effective immediately.