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Why did I miss American Pai?

Ajit Pai

The star speaker on the final day of Broadband World Forum 2017 was supposed to be FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, but he ended up blowing it out.

No explanation was offered by super-sub Don Stockdale – Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the FCC – only that Pai expressed his regrets. Stockdale delivered a perfectly good keynote but we will never know whether Trump appointee Pai, who hasn’t been shy about creating headlines in his brief time in charge, would have made any contentious comments.

The essence of Stockdale’s presentation was that the current version of the FCC is all about light-touch regulation – trying to give the private sector as many tools as possible to do its thing and then getting out of the way. This philosophy manifests itself in three key ways.

Firstly the FCC wants to make as much spectrum, both licensed and unlicensed, as possible available to CSPs, then to be flexible about what it can be used for. The 600 MHz auction of broadcast spectrum was cited as one example of this as well as the freeing up of 150 MHz in the 3.4 GHz band. Now the FCC is trying to make loads of higher frequency spectrum available for all manner of 5G goodness.

Secondly the FCC want to create a regulatory environment that incentivises companies to invest in infrastructure. Apparently there has been a fair bit of moaning in the US about burdensome bureaucracy (as ever) and the FCC is currently consulting on what can be done to lighten that load.

Lastly we were told that Pai’s top priority is to ‘close the digital divide’. Apparently there are still loads of rural places in the States that don’t have access to high-speed broadband and that makes Pai sad. To help with this the FCC is going to conduct a bunch of auctions where companies can bid for public funds to help build infrastructure where previously it was considered uneconomical to do so.

To anyone who regularly listens in on Pai’s public statements there was probably nothing new there. But we don’t get much opportunity to hear directly from the FCC Chairman here in Europe and it was disappointing that he had to cancel.


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