Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission recently spoke about his view on Net Neutrality and how the concerns around the topic were overblown.
Pai was talking on the Bharatvaarta podcast, which covers topics of interest in policy, politics and culture from an Indian lens. This particular talk with Ajit Pai was hosted with Pune based technology entrepreneur Amit Paranjape and Bengaluru based technology marketing specialist Roshan Cariappa. They spoke to Pai at length about telecommunication regulations, 5G, security concerns in this space and Pai’s Indian roots among other things.
Pai’s comments on net neutrality stood out after his spirited opposition to the related regulations earlier in 2017. He made arguments about how the Internet speeds across the US had significantly increased in the last few years. He recalled how the opposition to his views came in the backdrop of a charged up political environment.
He agreed that given how important the Internet is to daily life, any change to the regulations governing the Internet were bound to be seen with some concern. But he also explained how difficult it was for him during that period to make his case about light-touch regulation being a facilitator of new investment in the sector over a period of time.
Pai’s critics put up a very vocal campaign against his views on net neutrality and accused him of destroying the Internet. He, however, explained how he was proven right over time, when on August 25 it was found that the average broadband speed in the United States had doubled since the time the net neutrality argument broke out in 2017.
Pai explained how his critics were sold the ‘crisis of the moment’ by entrenched lobbies who used celebrity endorsers to bolster their loud but eventually incorrect arguments. He also expressed anguish on how many people knew that the hyperbolic predictions about Internet becoming costlier were incorrect but participated in the campaigns anyway. He recalled headlines like ‘This is the end of the Internet’ which had purportedly put up by American networks like the CNN.
Pai also touched upon other issues including the potential of 5G but also the need to use forethought and not an afterthought in ensuring that the right security measures were in place before deploying any hardware or software related to 5G. Pai recalled his Indian roots and his diverse interests in Indian culture including his visits to Hampi, his reading of Amar Chitra Katha and his love of Indian classical music. He spoke passionately about his appreciation for Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
This was the first such interaction that Pai had with any Indian media outlet since his visit to India in February 2020. He was part of the delegation which came to India with President Donald Trump. During his visit, he had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several officials from the telecom ministry signalling a close alignment between the United States and India on issues of telecommunication infrastructure and regulation.
The Bharatvaarta podcast is available on YouTube. Watch here: