neutrality. For example, one of the primary groups that have been
agitating for this is founded by someone who at the beginning of
the Obama Administration said that the goal here was to dismantle the capitalist system brick by brick. He specifically cited
Venezuela as an example of a media marketplace that he admired.
[Laughs] I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem to me that
either then or now, Venezuela’s marketplace was one of robust
debate and free expression.
PAI: The FEC Commissioner, Lee Goodman, who’s a good friend
of mine, he and I wrote about this several years ago. We expressed
our strong disagreement with the view that the government should
ever try to shape the marketplace of ideas by saying that there’s
too much speech on one side of the aisle. That’s precisely what
makes America great, is that
dynamic of free expression.
RUSH: That’s what I feared,
and that’s what I thought net
neutrality was actually going to
end up being. I thought this
other stuff was just a sideshow
and a distraction.
PAI: No, I certainly can tell you
that I’ve never shared that view,
and so long as I’m at this position I’ll keep speaking out
RUSH: The President is talking
about a major infrastructure
project, and he’s throwing
around the figure of a trillion
dollars. Wouldn’t you have
some role in any infrastructure
plan in building broadband
and laying fiber and wireless?
Part of modernizing America
would certainly be in your bailiwick. Have there been any
discussions yet on that?
PAI: Very much. I’ve publicly urged elected officials to consider
broadband, or digital infrastructure, as part of any infrastructure
plan that is on the table. And the reason is pretty simple. In the 21st
century, this is one of the areas where I think most Americans
would like policy makers to focus. In terms of what the number is,
or what the process is within Congress, I’ll certainly let those elected officials decide. But I will say that the FCC has some programs
already in the works that have been long established that would be
able to promote the deployment of digital infrastructure, the
shovel-ready projects so to speak, in a way that’s fiscally responsible.
So I would hope that Congress would work with us to try to make
sure that they get the most bang for the buck. Because what we do
not want to see is a repeat of prior stimulus programs, in which the
money is simply shoveled out the door and there’s no plan for using
it, and there’s no accountability on the back end for how it was
used. I think that’s not something that anybody, conservative, liberal, or in between, would countenance.
RUSH: I just want to close by thanking you and telling you how
much I admire you and what you have to know to be able to do what
you do. I remember when I, at 16 years old, wanted to work at a radio
station. It was a daytime 5,000-watt station that was directional,
which meant that a first-class radio telephone license holder had to be
on duty at all times, in the event that something went wrong with the
array. These are small stations. They can’t afford somebody just sit-
ting there waiting for something to go wrong. So all of us DJs had to
have these first-class licenses, which meant going down to Dallas to
the Elkins School of Broadcasting for six weeks and getting a cram
course. Today those things don’t even exist. The licenses are not even
there. But all the things you oversee now that are within the purview
of the FCC, with the rate of change, I don’t think most people even
give it a second thought, but I’m glad that you do, because it’s crucial.
PAI: Well, thanks so much, Rush. I really appreciate it. All I can say
is that zooming out, actually
your experience points out
something that I often think
about and talk about here at
the FCC, which is No. 1, regula-
tory humility. This market-
place is changing so quickly
that we can’t simply take a
snapshot of the marketplace at
a moment in time and just as-
sume that it’s always going to
be that way. And No. 2, just to
respect the fact that our regula-
tions have a disproportionate
effect on smaller businesses.
We sometimes assume that
everybody in the marketplace
must be a big corporation with
the ability to throw accoun-
tants and lawyers and compli-
ance resources at any given
problem. But if it’s a small AM
broadcaster, or a small internet
entrepreneur, those folks might
be put out of business or severely impeded if we impose these heavy-
handed rules. That’s something I always think about. That’s the last
thing we want to do is to keep upstarts in the marketplace from
doing what they do best.
RUSH: You still do license renewal for broadcast properties, right?
Radio and TV?
PAI: That’s correct, yes.
RUSH: The process probably hasn’t changed much. They’re very
seldom denied, but still the process is there. It’s all about community service and serving the local community you’re in. So it’s all a
good thing. So I just think the workload that you have, taking it
seriously as you do, is voluminous. And I wish you the best in it. I’m
so happy that you’re there.
PAI: Well, thanks a bunch, Rush. It’s a really tough job, but it’s
nothing I can’t handle with a good cup of coffee and the will to do
the right thing.
RUSH: Well, here’s to net neutrality taking a bite. [Laughter] Don’t
worry, you don’t have to answer that.
PAI: [Laughs] n
“What we do not want to see is a repeat of prior
stimulus programs, in which the money is simply
shoveled out the door.” — Ajit Pai