Pai’s FCC Exit Draws Broad Industry Reactions

Ajit Pai
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s announcement that we will be leaving the commission come Jan. 20 had the industry buzzing. While some offered thanks to his time as part of and leading the FCC, others were ready to see Pai and his policies exiting stage left.

Here are some samplings of reactions.

“Chairman Pai has been a champion of free and local broadcasting since he joined the FCC,” NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement. “His fair, thoughtful approach to regulation led to many common-sense reforms that were long overdue. Most notably, Chairman Pai modernized the commission’s media ownership rules, authorized and prompted the transition to the NextGen TV transmission standard, helped revitalize the AM radio band and cleared out some significant regulatory underbrush that was no longer in the public interest.

“... America’s broadcasters thank Chairman Pai for his public service to the benefit of the millions of viewers and listeners who tune in to their local radio and TV stations every day,” Smith concluded.

On the other side, Evan Greer, deputy director at Fight for the Future, said “Ajit Pai will go down in history as one of the most corrupt government officials of the century. His callous attack on net neutrality and blatant coddling of Big Telecom monopolies sparked the largest cross-partisan online backlash in the modern era. As he fades into the background, his smug demeanor and giant Reese’s mug will become cautionary memes—reminding internet users what happens when we don’t hold our government accountable.”

Predominantly there seems to be a split among those in the broadcast/telecommunications industry that supported many of Pai’s deregulation efforts, and those more concerned with Pai’s digital policies.

Patrick Butler, APTS president and CEO, like NAB’s Smith, praised Pai’s actions regarding spectrum auctions, media modernization reforms, children’s educational programming initiatives and support for NextGen TV. “... Chairman Pai has been a consequential leader in the communications industry, and he has done so with great common sense and uncommon personal grace.”

A number of people directly attacked Pai for what they believe were policies that throttled internet/broadband, and disputed claims that Pai helped close the digital divide in the country.

“We don’t need Ajit Pai throttling progress at the FCC and we don’t need Big Broadband throttling your internet speed for the sake of profits. Let’s put #netneutrality protections back on the books and put consumers back in charge at the FCC,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted.

“[Pai] claims that his radical deregulatory agenda spurred broadband improvements and closed the digital divide,” said Matt Wood, vice president for policy and senior counsel at Free Press. “None of these claims are remotely true. While Pai hangs out the ‘mission accomplished’ banner, the stark reality is that nearly 80 million people in America still lack adequate broadband at home, with Black, Brown and Indigenous people disproportionately disconnected.

“The gapping digital divide remains, and Pai’s done nothing to close it—even during the ongoing pandemic that’s made essential internet connection that much more vital,” Wood continued. “There’s little positive to say about four years of wasted opportunities and bluster from this failed chairman. But saying good riddance today is an opportunity to turn the page and get back to the serious work the FCC ignored while Pai ran it.”

As for Pai’s colleagues at the FCC, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who is also set to depart the FCC, issued the following statement:

“Congratulations to my friend and colleague, Ajit Pai, for his distinguished run as FCC Chairman. His commission ushered in many policy advancements and made strides updating communications regulations, from restoring the commission’s successful light-touch regulatory framework for internet service providers to modernizing media rules, opening up more spectrum bands for commercial use, and expanding broadband access to unserved Americans. I wish him all the best in the next stage of his career and thank him for his great service to our nation.” 

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who is reportedly a leading candidate to take over as FCC chairman, said this about Pai:

“While we did not always agree on policy matters, I always valued our shared commitment to public service. Serving the American people is a tremendous honor and I wish him the best in the future.”