By Dennis Jones
The interregnum – or what we colorfully call in American politics, the lame duck period – is over. As of Friday, January 20, Donald Trump is our 45th President of the United States, and his first few cabinet picks have passed Senate confirmation. This week, the new President continues to make policy news. Less well-publicized than his executive actions on pipelines and the environment though has been his moves in the innovation and technology space. He announced that Ajit Pai, ranking Republican member of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission,) will succeed Tom Wheeler as FCC Chairman. As an existing commissioner, Pai doesn’t require congressional sign off before assuming his new post. With his position secured and his policy prescriptions on the record, we can now preview what the FCC will look like during the Trump era.
First and foremost, we’re assured that the Pai FCC will look radically different than the FCC under Wheeler’s chairmanship. Pai will not only lead the FCC, but he’ll also preside over a new Republican majority. Pai has agitated against perceived FCC over-regulation, advocating that the government take a laissez-faire approach to the telecoms market. Specifically as a commissioner, he’s voted down key reforms that passed through the Democrat-led Wheeler FCC, including net neutrality regulations, broadband privacy protection and (delayed) cable box changes. So suffice it to say that under Pai’s chairmanship, the FCC will dramatically curtail its regulatory reach.
And as we’ve written before, net neutrality as it exists today might be an early casualty of the Trump agenda, especially the Title II Order. Trump’s FCC pick Pai hasn’t been shy about voicing his displeasure with Title II order, which re-classifies internet service providers (ISPs) as utility providers. His displeasure in its implementation turned to confidence in repeal, with Trump’s unexpected victory.
Besides net neutrality, here are a few more issues that the Pai FCC is likely to tackle in the next four years.
- Big mergers
- Tax breaks for startups
- Expansion of broadband access into rural areas