FCC Commissioner Pai Addresses IP Transition

At an event at the Hudson Institute Thursday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai discussed the future of internet protocol and the path he hopes the FCC follows in ensuring that transition is as beneficial as possible. He outlined the two paths the FCC can choose to follow for the IP transition; one being an application of burdensome legacy regulations, and the other being an effort to modernize regulations to fit an ever-evolving marketplace.

While Commissioner Pai described FCC efforts regarding IP transition as mixed between the overly regulated first path and more free-market second, he urged that movement down the second, optimal path be based upon hard evidence. In accordance with that, Commissioner Pai proposed a pilot, all IP program. Such a pilot would be voluntary, and similar pilot programs such as the rural healthcare pilot, which preceded the creation of the healthcare connect fund, have been useful in implementing new programs.

An all IP pilot program would need to operate with four basic principles: consumer protection, repeal of obsolete regulations, address of market failures, and fidelity to the law. The last point in particular warrants special note, especially for those dissatisfied with the 1996 Communications Act. Commissioner Pai noted that while the Act is by no means perfect, the FCC must operate within its scope nonetheless. Questions regarding FCC authority under the law ought to be submitted to Congress, rather than merely acted upon.

Commissioner Pai’s advocacy for market oriented solutions in moving the country technologically forward should be applauded. The current FCC regime is too often eager to regulate first, to the detriment of jobs, businesses, and consumers. Hopefully the Commission will heed Commissioner Pai’s advice while tackling the difficult issue of IP transition, and move forward in a manner that is beneficial for all.