Appearing at a policy event hosted last Thursday by the Free State Foundation, FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly outlined their vision of the upcoming Republican-led FCC, which O’Rielly promised would focus on four priorities:  (1) rolling back harmful policies, (2) clearing regulatory underbrush, (3) implementing a “pro-growth, pro-innovation agenda,” and (4) engaging in process reform.   

Pai and O’Rielly were joined by House Commerce Committee Vice Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who told attendees that she anticipates the introduction of a “legislative solution” to net neutrality early in the upcoming congressional session.  As Blackburn looked forward to an “incredible year” that will give lawmakers many opportunities to address telecommunications-related issues, Pai voiced confidence that recent FCC rules reclassifying broadband under Title II will be reversed and that the FCC “will . . . respect the limits that Congress has placed on our authority.”  Stressing, “we can’t simply enact whatever we think is good policy—we also have to make sure that we have the power to do so,” Pai told his audience, “I’m hopeful that, beginning next year, our general regulatory approach will be a more sober one that is guided by evidence, sound economic analysis, and a good dose of humility.”  A key part of that effort, said Pai, is the removal of “outdated and unnecessary regulations.”  Lamenting that, “the regulatory underbrush at the FCC is thick,” Pai quipped:  “we need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation.”   

While signaling his agreement with Pai, O’Rielly applauded proposals by President-Elect Trump to eliminate two regulations for every one that is imposed.  While urging the FCC’s incoming Republican leadership to “consider acting quickly to reverse any damaging policies,” O’Rielly called on the upcoming FCC to “define and limit the black hole that is the Team Telecom review process” for license assignments and transfers which involve foreign ownership.  O’Rielly also recommended the removal of barriers to wireless infrastructure and next-generation network deployment and the advancement of additional reforms to the universal service fund system.