FCC chairman Ajit Pai says he thinks closing the digital divide can be something that bridges the current political divide as well.
American Cable Association president Matt Polka got in the final question for the chairman following Pai's speech at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where ACA is based.
Polka asked whether, given the politically divided country, it would be possible to navigate between consumers needing services and the private networks that will be providing it.
Pai conceded the political divisions but said he hoped closing the digital divide could be "an oasis from that."
He had yet to hear that people wanted better networks because they were Republicans or Democrats. He said it does not matter who gets credit for closing the divide, which is why before the election back in September he proposed Gigabit Empowerment Zones—providing tax breaks to ISPs to deliver high-speed to low-income neighborhoods. He said it was not about who won the election or who was going to head the FCC but instead about a blueprint for digital empowerment.
He also said that was why early on in his tenure he approved letting New York State direct some Universal Service Fund money, saying he had worked with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on that effort.
"This is an area where we can come together and share the credit, whether public or private, Democrat or Republican."
Pai was asked following the speech why he had not scheduled his appearance a day earlier—which would have been March 14, or 3/14, or Pi Day. He joked that it was so he could warn them about the Ides of March (March 15).