Pai’s Planned Exit Draws Colleague, Industry Interest

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Fellow commissioners and industry spoke out on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plans to leave the agency (see lede.) “While we did not always agree on policy matters, I always valued our shared commitment to public service,” said Senior Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who’s reportedly on the short list to succeed Pai as the next agency Chair. “Serving the American people is a tremendous honor and I wish him the best in the future.”

“Congratulations to my friend and colleague, Ajit Pai, for his distinguished run as FCC Chairman,” said Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who is departing the agency this month. “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.”  

Fellow Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr said Pai “will leave behind an unparalleled record of accomplishments—one that would not even fit in his oversized coffee mug.” He credited Pai for taking on tough policy fights. “He strengthened the country’s national security by protecting our communications networks from bad actors that would do us harm. And he took critical steps in the days following COVID-19 to ensure that Americans could stay connected during the pandemic—whether for distance learning, working remotely, or telehealth.”

Colleague Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks tweeted: “@AjitPaiFCC and I may disagree on many policy issues, but we are in full agreement about two things: the outstanding quality of @FCC’s staff and the tremendous abilities of @PatrickMahomes. I wish Ajit the best of luck on the road ahead!”

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith called Pai, a fan of radio, a champion of free, over-the-air local broadcasters. “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 promoted the transition to the Next Gen TV transmission standard, helped revitalize the AM radio band and cleared out some significant regulatory underbrush that was no longer in the public interest.”

Smith continued: “Apart from his many policy advances, Chairman Pai also demonstrated great leadership, creativity, a sense of humor and always had an open door. 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.”

Shirley Bloomfield, Chief Executive Officer of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, thanked Pai for his efforts to close the digital divide and provide more resources to sustain and advance rural broadband. “Chairman Pai grew up in a small town in Kansas and has clearly understood the importance of rural broadband for economic opportunity, education and health care,” stated Bloomfield. “Throughout his tenure at the FCC, Chairman Pai took the time to meet with NTCA members and to visit rural communities to see for himself what more needs to be done—and then followed through with action. We are grateful for all of his hard work and leadership over the years, and we wish him the best in his next steps.”

“Throughout his tenure, and never more so than during these challenging days of the pandemic, Chairman Pai has prioritized bridging the digital divide and connecting all Americans everywhere to 21st century communications networks,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and chief executive officer of USTelecom – The Broadband Association. Spalter described broadband providers as those who “invest in innovation, dig the trenches, pull the fiber, and climb the poles, share that commitment.”

Wireless Internet Service Providers Association President/CEO Claude Aiken called Pai “a huge champion of the fixed wireless industry, with his FCC’s tireless efforts to identify, free-up and share spectrum that would otherwise have gone fallow.” Aiken stated Pai “helped keep regulation low, and worked to remove other related burdens, which was especially helpful for our small WISP members. And his dedication to reducing the digital divide, in particular in rural America, is without parallel.”

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