Brand new Federal Communications commissioner Ajit Pai on Wednesday jokingly welcomed the Senate Commerce Committee’s “exacting scrutiny” of his 52 hours as a commissioner.
For Pai, and his fellow new commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, it was scrutiny that never came as members of the Senate committee aimed their questions instead at FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the senior Republican on the commission, Robert McDowell.
Time constraints meant only Genachowski and McDowell gave statements, but the testimony that Rosenworcel and Pai prepared for the hearing gave perhaps the most insight yet into the new commissioners’ views.
Pai, for example, focused on spectrum, media ownership rules, and programs designed to subsidize broadband development.
“The common thread uniting them is that prompt and well-considered FCC action can improve the communications marketplace for the benefit of all consumers,” Pai said in written testimony delivered at the hearing.
The FCC, Pai said, should seek to act on such issues with the same speed that innovation and markets are developing.
As would be expected from the newest Republican commissioner, Pai said the FCC should create a regulatory environment favorable to businesses.
“Faced with an industry as vibrant and dynamic as today’s communications sector, the Commission must guard against clinging to twentieth century methods of addressing the technological landscape of the twenty-first century,” he said.
In her own brief written testimony, Rosenworcel also said the FCC should act with humility. “It must have a healthy respect for the power of innovation to invert what we think we know,” she said.
Still, Rosenworcel said there is a great need for the commission to be proactive in preserving public safety, promoting competition and innovation, and protecting consumers.
Both Rosenworcel and Pai joined the other members of the FCC in voicing support for auctions designed to entice broadcasters to provide spectrum for mobile wireless networks.
Congress passed a law giving the FCC authority to conduct the auctions, but Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said the rewards can only be realized if the FCC moves quickly.
“This spectrum legislation has the potential to spur innovation, to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, to grow our economy, and to make our communities safer,” she said. “But that can only occur if agencies like the FCC do a good and timely job of implementing this very complex law.”
Wednesday’s hearing was the first time since their confirmation hearing last year that Rosenworcel and Pai will face the panel. The pair were sworn in as commissioners on Monday.
It was also the first time that members of Congress had the chance to grill the full commission since GOP Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker left last year.