Pai Concerned About Where FCC Is Headed on 'Big Issues'

In first major speech, FCC commissioner has a lot of suggestions for improvement
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He may be in the minority, but new Republican FCC commissioner
Ajit Pai has some major changes he would like to see the FCC make. Those
include setting a June 30, 2014, deadline for conducting incentive auctions of
broadcast spectrum; creating an Office of Entrepreneurial Innovation; creating
a Web page that would allow the public to track the FCC's compliance with
statutory and internal deadlines; and set those deadlines at nine months for
resolving applications of reviews of its decisions and six months for waiver
requests.

Pai was scheduled to make those proposals in a speech at
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh Wednesday, according to a summary and
copy of the speech supplied by his office. It is his first major speech as
commissioner, and he was talking in bold and broad strokes in a speech that
advertised that fact in the title: "The Path to a 21st Century
FCC."

Pai is also pushing the FCC to accelerate the transition to Internet
protocol delivery, calling for the creation of an IP Transition Task Force. He
also wants the FCC to allow cable operators and competitive local phone
companies to merge, something the cable industry has been pushing for.

Pai framed his proposals as a response to what he said was a
"dreary" jobs picture in the information and communications
technology (ICT) sector, with fewer jobs than at any point until 1989, and a
loss of 165,000 telecom jobs (15%) in the past three-and-a-half years alone.

He said shedding jobs in a sector with "the ubiquity of
personal computers, the advent of the Internet, and the rise of
smartphones," was unacceptable.

He said the FCC has contributed to that problem through
inaction or delay. He said he was not looking for the FCC to "rush to
regulate," but the FCC needed to move faster. He gave FCC chairman Julius
Genachowski credit for reducing backlogs, but said much more needed to be done.

He also said he was concerned about where the FCC has headed
"on the big issues." He says that is partly because of anachronistic
laws the FCC is required to enforce. But he also says there is reluctance on
the FCC to tackle many "big ticket" issues, which he says is
understandable given the constituencies in play. But he said the commission
needs to make the tough calls and move on.

Pai says his proposed new Office of Entrepreneurial
Innovation could make innovation an institutional priority. He proposes
remaking the current Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis into that
new office, with resources from the Wireless Telecom Bureau and the Office of
Engineering and Technology.

Pai called for swifter action on freeing up mobile
broadband. He praised the National Broadband Plan goals of freeing up 500 MHz
over 10 years and 300 MHz over five, but said that the plan is behind schedule
given that no new spectrum had been freed up that could be effectively used for
wireless broadband. "The timeline set forth in the National Broadband Plan
called for holding at least two major auctions of some of the spectrum it
identified by 2011," he said. "We haven't done this. Indeed, the last
major auction that we conducted for wireless broadband spectrum took place back
in 2008. The timeline also called for the FCC to issue orders in 2010 and 2011
making available 90 MHz of spectrum currently used by satellite providers for
terrestrial wireless broadband. But it is now 2012, and none of that spectrum
can be used in that manner. If we stay on our present course, we cannot meet
the targets of the National Broadband Plan."

Pai called for launching the incentive auction rulemaking
process this fall -- Genachowski has already set that goal -- and said it
should set a deadline for conducting both auctions "no later than June 30,
2014."

Pai called his speech the beginning of a conversation, and
he clearly had a lot to say.

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