December 22, 2020
Op-Ed: Building on the Legacy of the Pai FCC
As Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai prepares to step down next month, the incoming Biden Administration should heed the lessons of Pai’s tenure, argues AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin in Protocol. The United States has built a robust internet infrastructure and an innovative digital economy by limiting government intervention, writes Holtz-Eakin, and the next FCC chair would undermine these gains by abandoning this light-touch regulatory posture.
When Pai’s FCC repealed net neutrality two years ago, there was a flood of concern and consternation that this repeal would enable opportunistic and malicious internet providers to throttle access or slow down speeds. No pervasive bad behavior emerged. Instead, by lifting these regulatory burdens, the FCC helped spur a surge of private investment in broadband deployment, not only connecting more Americans in hard-to-reach or underserved communities, but also supporting more nimble, resilient networks that can handle rapid changes and growth in internet demand. At the same time, broadband prices continue to decline even as speeds continue to increase.
In the presence of this hands-off regulatory approach, most Americans today are able to telework, learn online, and participate in remote health care consultations with little to no fuss. To be sure, we are far from finally closing the digital divide, but the current FCC has left us with a blueprint of the most efficient way to meet this goal and others for our internet infrastructure.