Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai made a stop at Ethoplex’s Germantown office on Monday afternoon to discuss the challenges facing small internet service providers and his efforts to ease FCC regulations.
Pai discussed those issues with Keefe John, president and CEO of Ethoplex, a fixed-wireless business internet service provider that serves the Greater Milwaukee area, following a roundtable discussion in Milwaukee with Sen. Ron Johnson and members of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.
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Ethoplex CEO and president Keefe John with FCC chairman Ajit Pai at Ethoplex's Germantown office.[/caption]
Pai was appointed as FCC chairman by President Donald Trump in January, and has gained attention in recent weeks for his plans to relax the commission’s oversight of internet service providers.
Monday’s conversation centered mostly on the challenges with broadband deployment in rural areas, Pai said.
“Wisconsin is pretty unique because it has big cities like Milwaukee and many, many small towns that are sometimes harder to serve,” Pai said. “So I just wanted to come to understand the nature of the challenges that businesses like Ethoplex face and see if there are any ways that we at the FCC can help by providing a regulatory environment that allows them to execute (their business).”
Pai stressed that less regulation will benefit small companies like Ethoplex, noting that they don’t enjoy the same resources as larger companies to handle government regulations.
Regarding net neutrality, Pai said he wants to scale back FCC rules to the “light touch framework” prior to Barack Obama’s presidency.
“I’ve consistently said that everybody favors a free and open internet, the only question here is how do we have a regulatory framework that preserves that value and also maximizes the incentive for internet service providers like (Ethoplex) to invest,” he said. “The light touch framework we had starting in the Clinton administration in the 1990s up to 2015 (proved) to work.”
He noted that companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix flourished in that environment.
John said he is pleased with Pai’s deregulation efforts.
“As a small provider, we fully support any type of deregulation,” John said,” because it’s a lot easier for larger carriers to deal with that regulation and it stifles competition.”
Meanwhile, Pai’s stance on net neutrality has also drawn strong opposition, bolstered by a recent 20-minute segment on comedian John Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight” that rallied for the preservation of current net neutrality rules. During the show, Oliver implored viewers to flood the FCC’s website with comments in support of net neutrality.
Pai noted that he has seen a deluge of emails regarding the issue in recent weeks.