FCC Chairman Pai Seeks to Restore Internet Freedom   

By at 27 April, 2017, 3:06 pm

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan, and FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly at the “Future of Internet Regulation” event.

by Raymond J. Keating-

At the Newseum in Washington, D.C., during an April 26 “Future of Internet Regulation” event co-hosted by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and FreedomWorks, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), announced his intention to roll back onerous, 1930s-style utility regulation of broadband service. Pai and his fellow FCC commissioner, Michael O’Rielly struck a blow for Internet freedom, and for small businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers.

The latest move by Pai and O’Rielly follow a series of steps to make the regulatory process more transparent, inclusive, data-driven and sensitive to entrepreneurs and small businesses. As noted by SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan in her opening remarks at the event:

“What Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Reilly are doing on the regulatory front matters to small business and the future of entrepreneurship in America. Investment is key to innovation and bringing our small businesses and people who want to start businesses affordable, high-quality broadband so they can use the tools of the Internet to start, scale and compete in the global marketplace in the location of their choice.”

Read Chairman Pai’s speech here.

Read Commissioner O’Rielly’s speech here.

In his speech, Pai noted that the Internet stands out as “the greatest free market success in history,” spurred on by a “light touch regulatory framework” established in the mid-1990s by a bipartisan Congress and President Bill Clinton.

A Dramatic Change in Direction, For No Reason

Pai went on to explain, with their early 2015 decision and under the urging of President Obama, a majority of FCC commissioners imposed 1930s-style Title II utility regulation on wired and wireless broadband services of the 21st century. That has created enormous uncertainty in the market, and gave a government bureaucracy astounding control over the Internet. Suddenly, the dynamism and innovation of the Internet, which is so critical to entrepreneurs, small businesses, consumers and our overall economy, was placed in jeopardy. Pai noted that since the FCC took this misguided step, domestic broadband investment has declined over the last two years – the first time that has happened outside of a recession.

Back to Light Touch, For All the Right Reasons

So, Pai announced that the commission on May 18 will vote on a proposal to roll back the February 2015 decision to regulate broadband like a 1930s rotary phone monopoly, returning to the light touch regulatory framework that had served broadband investment and innovation, and our economy so well. The result, as Pai noted, will be enhanced investment, expanded broadband services for under-served communities, such as rural and low-income areas, more competition, increased job creation, and improved privacy.

Chairman Pai asked some straightforward questions:

• Does one favor government control, or a light regulatory touch?

• Does one want to encourage or discourage investment and innovation?

• Does one want more jobs or fewer jobs?

• And does one want competition or government control?

The answers to these questions should be evident, i.e., a light regulatory touch and competition will generate more investment, innovation, jobs and growth – along with expanded opportunities for the small businesses working within the telecommunications industry, and those using broadband services.

Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly threw down the gauntlet, seeking to limit the costs and uncertainties imposed by government in order to unleash private-sector investment, innovation, entrepreneurship and competition that will serve consumers and content providers – in each case including small businesses – and the economy well.

Read Chairman Pai’s LA Times Op-ed (April 26): “Why I’m Trying to Change How the FCC Regulates the Internet” 

Read the FCC’s April 27 Notice of Propose Rulemaking “Restoring Internet Freedom”


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Keating’s latest book published by SBE Council is titled Unleashing Small Business Through IP:  The Role of Intellectual Property in Driving Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment and it is available free on SBE Council’s website here.


News and Media Releases