Digital Transformation FCC Net Neutrality

Donald Trump’s FCC head Ajit Pai backs ‘light-touch regulation’ to boost 5G infrastructure investment


By John McCarthy | Media editor

February 28, 2017 | 4 min read

The chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, has spoken in favor of less stringent regulation of the mobile telecoms market to encourage investment in broader coverage, and more vitally, a future-proofed 5G network.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Recently installed FCC chairman Ajit Pai was speaking at Mobile World Congress

Speaking today (February 28) at Mobile World Congress (MWC) Ajit Pai, president Donald Trump’s controversial choice to lead the commission, made no real claims easing concerns net neutrality is currently under review but hinted that on the horizon is a less stringent regulatory regime for telecoms providers is in the works.

“The US is taking a fresh look at our regulatory approach,” said Pai, indicating that he aims to move fast given that he has only been in the job for five weeks.

Echoing president Trump’s pro-business sentiment, he claimed: “The internet has changed all of us, enabled the democratization of entrepreneurialism, you can raise a customer base worldwide and disrupt entire industries.”

The keynote, entitled: Building the 5G Economy, brought together Pai, his European Commission counterpart, Andrus Ansip the vice president of the digital single market, plus major industry players Mike Fries, president and chief executive of Liberty Global and Stéphane Richard, the chief executive of and chairman of Orange.

Pai issued a warning that the 5G connected world that’s been heavily plied at MWC – which showcases everything from autonomous cars, to health-monitoring wearables – will not come to fruition if network operators do not first lay the groundwork.

“We stand on the cusp of exciting possibilities but it is not a foregone conclusion that we will fully realize this potential, it is expensive to build the infrastructure, requiring millions of cell towers, laid fiber and massive capital expenditure," he said.

“The more difficult the government makes it to build a business, the less likely they will pay the billions of dollars to connect consumers with opportunity.”

He was especially critical of new rules brought into place by the FCC two years ago to further regulate the industry, which he argued smothered investment amid uncertainty over the tougher stance.

He added: “We were not living in a digital dystopia… the internet should be free from heavy-handed government intervention, we should let the market forces regulate these decisions. Our policy is a modern one to give the private sector the flexibility it needs.”

Finally, he was questioned on his connection to the Trump administration and whether he could maintain the independence required to run the regulatory body. He replied: “As we say in the US, these are business and political issues that are above my pay grade.”

Elsewhere during the session, EU digital single market vice president Andrus Ansip said the EU would roll out 5G trials in 2018 – around a year after Pai’s proposed trials.

Ansip added: “We want to avoid global fragmentation, where people's connections turn patchy when they travel overseas. We need a common understanding between countries and regions, it may take longer to reach a consensus, but it is worth it.”

Digital Transformation FCC Net Neutrality

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