Pai Debuts as Chairman with Auction Action Coming Soon

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New Chairman Ajit Pai was effusive as he presided over his first open FCC meeting, and he stuck to familiar themes: broadband deployment and closing the digital divide. In just under 30 minutes, the three Commissioners voted to eliminate the 1973 requirement that broadcasters retain paper copies of viewer and listener correspondence about station operations in their public file.

pai debutsA larger than usual contingent of press representatives were on hand, including Inside Towers. Pai handily fielded questions about process reform and whether the FCC would see some of its duties delegated to other agencies. The staff “has not made any process reform decisions” nor contacted the White House about that, he said.

Several questions concerned Net Neutrality; during his time as a Commissioner, Pai, a former Verizon attorney and Justice Department employee, opposed the more recent broadband privacy protections enacted under previous Chairman Tom Wheeler, and said last month it was time to take a “weed whacker” to “rules holding back investment, innovation and job creation.” No decisions have been made on Net Neutrality, Pai told reporters on Tuesday, and he reiterated he supports a “free and open internet.”

A small group of protesters stood outside the FCC handing out flyers that read: “Save the Net, Fire Chairman Pai.” The group, calling themselves “Fight for the Future,” supports retaining the Net Neutrality rules as is. Finally, broadcasters recently asked the Commission to end the communications ban related to the incentive auction. Asked by Inside Towers about the status of that request, Pai said his staff is reviewing it and that “I can’t say anything today, but hope to make an announcement soon.”

February 1, 2017

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