Exclusive—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai: ‘We Want America to Be the Leader in Innovation’

Federal Communications Commission Chairman (FCC) Ajit Pai told Breitbart News that he remains committed to closing the digital divide and that “We want America to be the leader in innovation.”

FCC Chairman Pai previously explained to Breitbart News what he believes the “digital divide” is and how the FCC can best close that gap. Pai believes that closing the digital divide remains one of the core issues at the FCC.

Ajit Pai explained, “The digital divide is one of the issues that really motivates my work at the FCC that there are too many Americans disproportionately rural and low-income urban Americans who do not have the same access to the internet and other advanced technologies as the rest of us do.”

The head of the FCC recently concluded a five-state, 18-stop, 1,600-mile road trip from Wisconsin to Wyoming to learn about the digital issues facing rural and urban America.

Pai recounted the story of a woman who passed away after she had been unable to make a 911 call when in distress, “It was a gentleman when I was visiting a Sioux reservation told me that they found her in her home clutching her cell phone and she dialed 911 38 times and the call just never went through and that’s just a really tragic example of the digital divide. The silver lining is that hopefully it compels policymakers and private business to expand cell service and make situations like that the exception.”

Pai recounted some of his more memorable experiences to Breitbart News:

“I absolutely loved it. I mean, as much as I enjoy working on these issues here in my office there’s no substitute to getting out there in the country.

“Through the upper Midwest, I drove all the way from Milwaukee to Casper, Wyoming. It was incredible, met with a lot of companies and consumers in small town and big cities from Eau Clare, Wisconsin, to Mission, South Dakota, to where the Sioux reservation and Iowa just to hear what some of the challenges are.

“That really gave me a firsthand appreciation about vital broadband is across these rural areas. If you got it then you can get telemedicine, you can get precision agriculture, you can help educate your kids, you can build a business, you can do all these things that all these people in big cities take for granted. But if you don’t have it then you can be almost in another century and I went with my other coworkers to West Virginia, then Virginia, and then Maryland. I saw in West Virginia a town that was able to attract people to that town because they know that they have that great internet connectivity. There’s a company that does transcription services, that might do a transcription of a C-SPAN hearing or a cable news event. They have to download massive video files in order to give their workers a chance to transcribe the feed. That requires broadband and now they’re up to 28 employees and moved into a second building.

“But just down the road in West Virginia, they do not have internet access. I met with the owner of a resort, beautiful view up in the mountains, a lot greenery and outdoor activities, but when the day is over and they get back to their rooms and they’re not able get online and he told me that have had some challenges getting big groups of guests to sign up.

“That illustrates everything in a microcosm we have been discussing at the FCC. The digital divide has a serious impact on the ability of people in rural and urban America to really take full advantage of the internet revolution.

“It reminded me that we’re not pushing paper at the FCC, we’re building a real difference and building digital opportunity here, it just makes me glad I had the chance to serve.

The head of the FCC declared that he wants America to be at the forefront of technology. The chairman charged: “Not to be parochial, but we want America to be the leader in innovation just as we were in 4G and other previous iterations of wireless technology. I think that if we get it right in terms of regulatory perspective, there’s no telling what entrepreneurs and innovators can do with it. It’s a sort Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come. If you give the private sector the tools to innovate they will come and take advantage of it and keep America on the cutting edge of wireless.”

Chairman Pai explained what steps the agency took to foster innovation in America: “A few other steps we took, we took to get more wireless spectrum in the commercial marketplace to make sure that as consumers go wireless we are able to keep up to the supply of the airwaves,” Ajit Pai said. “We can make it to get easier to get access to the telephone poles for broadband development and easier to setup small cells for the future of the wireless networks.”

The Senate confirmed FCC commissioner nominees Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel on Thursday.

Pai cheered Carr’s confirmation and said that looks forward to working with Rosenworcel and the rest of his colleagues. Pai said, “I have great respect for Brendan, part of the reason why is that I found him to be a very dedicated public servant and a very independent thinker, he has a strong aptitude for the issues he’s developed over a number of years in the private sector. I think he’s going to bring to the table a tremendous amount of expertise and interest in these issues. I have every confidence that he and Jessica Rosenworcel as fully contributing members. I think that we all share an interest in promoting digital opportunity and protecting consumers and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves alongside him.”

At the FCC commissioners’ Senate confirmation hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) questioned the FCC’s independence from the White House. Blumenthal (D-CT) asked Pai whether any member of the Trump White House tried to contact the FCC regarding any pending mergers, including the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner.

Pai replied to Blumenthal, saying that no one from the Trump White House “has weighed in with me or indirectly with the staff, as far as I know, on any pending transaction.”

Pai explained that the FCC “can only pine over an issue within our jurisdiction,” and that the FCC can only review mergers if two companies transfer media licenses. The Department of Justice, however, can review the merger between Time Warner and AT&T.

The Washington Post previously reported an imaginary meeting between the FCC and President Donald Trump, alleging unethical coordination between the White House and Ajit Pai.

FCC Chairman Pai explained that “We’re doing the best we can at the FCC as an independent agency to move the ball forward for the American consumer and I’m proud we’ve been able to do that and generally in a bipartisan way.”

“At the end of the day the American consumer is going to see the results of our work and they’ll be really proud of our efforts,” Pai concluded.


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