Big Telecom is Ecstatic About Trump's New FCC Boss Ajit Pai
Industry reaction to Trump’s FCC appointment: Tremendous. Terrific. The Best.
Image: Getty Images
That sound you're hearing?
It's cable and telecom executives and lobbyists whooping it up and popping champagne corks over President Trump's choice to lead the Federal Communications Commission.
From Dallas to Philly to DC to New York, the nation's largest cable and phone companies—and the lobbying groups that represent them—could barely contain their glee on Monday over Trump's decision to appoint Ajit Pai, a fierce opponent of net neutrality, to lead the nation's top telecom regulatory agency.
That's because Pai, a former Verizon lawyer and longtime DC denizen, has made no secret of his intention to dismantle FCC initiatives that are bitterly opposed by the telecom industry, most notably the agency's policy safeguarding net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible to consumers.
"A terrific appointment," said Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David L. Cohen.
"An exceptional choice," said USTelecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter.
"No one is more prepared," said AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn.
Telecom titans like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T loathe the FCC's net neutrality policy, because it treats them like common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That gives the FCC the authority to prohibit these corporate giants from charging deep-pocketed content companies for access to internet fast lanes, or favoring certain services at the expense of rivals.
Pai, along with the telecom industry's Republican friends in Congress, is expected to embark on a campaign to roll back back the FCC's net neutrality policy and other agency initiatives, including rules that protect consumer privacy from broadband industry abuses. And that is, well, tremendous news for the nation's largest cable and phone companies, and their lobbyists and GOP allies on Capitol Hill.
Drain the swamp, indeed.
Open internet advocates, including former President Obama and former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, argue that strong net neutrality rules are needed to prevent telecom giants from undermining the open, freewheeling nature of the internet that has made it such a fertile environment for innovation, economic growth, and free speech.
Here is a sampling of ebullient telecom industry reactions to Pai's new role as FCC chief:
Comcast (David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President): "A terrific appointment."
"We congratulate Ajit Pai on his appointment as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. He has served with great distinction as a Commissioner over the past four and a half years, and has demonstrated that he is highly qualified to lead the Commission. We commend his tireless efforts to develop and support policies that benefit American consumers and spur greater investment and innovation in broadband technologies to connect all Americans and drive job creation.
"This is a terrific appointment for the American consumer and the companies the FCC regulates and we look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Pai in his new role."
USTelecom (Jonathan Spalter, President & CEO): "An exceptional choice."
"Ajit Pai is an exceptional choice to head the Federal Communications Commission. He's a thoughtful, forward-looking and energetic leader who has never forgotten his roots in rural Kansas, and the need to deliver high-speed broadband access to all parts of our country.
"We share Commissioner Pai's vision for a 'Broadband First' future based on a bold but pragmatic strategy to erase the many regulatory barriers impeding the expansion of our nation's communications infrastructure, and the jobs and economic opportunity that depend on it. I am excited to work with the new chairman—as well as with the new Administration and Congress— to advance policies, partnerships, and programs that will bring broadband's benefits to all our families, communities, and businesses, and ensure our nation's telecommunications innovators can invest and compete on a level regulatory playing field."
AT&T (Bob Quinn, Senior Executive Vice President): "No one is more prepared."
"Today, on his first official day in office, President Trump designated Ajit Pai as the new FCC Chairman. No one is more prepared to reframe the agency to address the needs of this rapidly changing marketplace. Chairman Pai will work with his fellow Commissioners to quickly and decisively put back in place the commonsense regulatory framework necessary to support the President's agenda for job creation, innovation and investment.
"Congratulations to Chairman Pai. We look forward to working with him and his team and the FCC to support President Trump's growth agenda."
Verizon (Kathy Grillo, Senior Vice President): "Understands the issues facing our industry."
"Verizon congratulates Ajit Pai on his appointment as Chairman of the FCC. During his tenure, Chairman Pai has been a strong advocate of smart, forward-looking policies in the communications space, a steadfast supporter of issues including broadband expansion, particularly in rural areas, and a proponent of innovation and new ideas that will benefit consumers and the nation as a whole. We believe Chairman Pai truly knows and understands the issues facing our industry, and is a critical thinker who will look for ways to help communications and technology companies fuel growth in the American economy.
"We look forward to working with the new chairman and others at the FCC under the new administration."
NCTA—The Internet & Television Association (Michael Powell, CEO*): "Well-deserved."
"We congratulate Ajit Pai on his well-deserved appointment to be Chairman of the FCC. During his tenure on the Commission, Chairman Pai has consistently demonstrated a common-sense philosophy that consumers are best served by a robust marketplace that encourages investment, innovation and competition. We stand ready to assist Chairman Pai and his colleagues in their effort to promote policies which ensure that America remains a global internet, communications and entertainment leader."
*Powell, a Republican, served as FCC chairman under President George W. Bush.
CTIA (Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO*): "Common sense approach to open internet."
"On behalf of CTIA and the wireless industry, we congratulate Chairman Pai. During his time on the Commission, he has championed spectrum and infrastructure reform and is a leading voice for a common sense approach to open internet and privacy. We applaud Chairman Pai's work and vision including his Digital Empowerment Agenda and its promise of reducing regulatory barriers to broadband deployment and expanding opportunities for innovation and economic growth across the country. We look forward to working with Chairman Pai and the FCC to secure America's position as a global wireless leader."
*Baker, a Republican, served as a FCC commissioner under President Barack Obama.
American Cable Association (Matthew M. Polka, President and CEO): "Deep understanding."
"ACA is pleased that President Trump has selected Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC. Over his many years of service as a Commissioner, he has demonstrated an extensive knowledge of communications law and policy and a deep understanding of the communications business and industry dynamic. Moreover, we at ACA have always found he has an open door to listen to our views and proposals. He respects and understands the concerns of independent cable operators, especially in those cases where they have been required to shoulder enormous regulatory burdens to the same extent as much larger providers, such as new obligations to comply with the Open Internet's enhanced transparency rules.
"ACA looks forward to working with Chairman Pai and FCC Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Mignon Clyburn on charting a policy course that promotes investment, competition and consumer protection in an enduring bipartisan manner acceptable to all major stakeholders."