Classical liberal arts training will be valuable in the digital future, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said.
On Sept. 20, the Hillsdale College Federalist Society hosted Pai, who spoke on the future of digital opportunity.
“Your school’s unique commitment to a classical liberal arts education — to ‘understanding the good, the true, and the beautiful’ — isn’t just excellent preparation for life,” Pai said. “It’s preparation for working in the digital age.”
The sentiment that technology is a positive factor for job creation is nothing new, Pai said. As artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent in the world, Pai argued that uniquely human qualities will only become more valuable. He said the FCC is focused on accelerating the process of technology, not slowing it down.
“If you get into the field of technology, I hope you’ll take the tools you’ve been given here at Hillsdale and help extend the digital revolution to benefit all Americans,” Pai said.
Pai laid out the groundwork for the actions that his commission took on Net Neutrality, which received a lot of backlash. Pai reminded listeners that when the commercial internet came to be, Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress made it national policy that the internet should not be regulated by federal or state government, in a historic bipartisan decision in 1996.
“The internet is one of the greatest platforms we’ve seen for innovation and free expression,” Pai said. “And that’s because we embraced the power of the free market, not government, at that critical moment.”
According to Pai, a partisan FCC majority abandoned the original approach in 2015, and put the government in charge of the internet.
“We’ve restored the bipartisan, well-established rules that will both protect consumers and promote infrastructure investment,” Pai said.
Pai joked that Twitter still works, as does the rest of the internet.
“You are still able to hate-tweet your favorite FCC Chairman,” Pai said as the room replied with laughter.
“He has a great sense of self-humor,” junior Grace Berner said.“I really appreciate that he was able to clarify net neutrality.”
Pai said that the FCC serves as an example of “what can happen when government puts its faith in markets and entrepreneurs instead of lawyers and politicians.”
According to Pai, the FCC requires transparency. Every internet service provider, however big or small, has to disclose business practices to the FCC and the public. The FCC under Pai is “promoting better, faster, and cheaper internet access and competition,” he said.
Pai also discussed what he believes to be the future of the digital world, including 5G as the next generation of wireless networks. 5G promises exponential growth in the internet and creates a world where everything is connected, Pai said.
“The 5G future doesn’t have to happen,” Pai said. “5G will simply not come to be if the FCC doesn’t take action on spectrum and infrastructure.”
As far as spectrum, the FCC is working to allow more licensed and unlicensed airwaves in the marketplace. Additionally, the FCC is cutting back regulations that often make it impossible to to install infrastructure. According to Pai, on Oct. 1, a major wireless company will launch the first commercial 5G home service in four cities across the United States.
Pai’s message resonated with the packed room of students.
“I thought he was very enlightening and incredibly intelligent,” sophomore Braden VanDyke said. “He is a profound speaker — the type of person you hear and say: ‘I’m glad he’s the guy in that job.’”
Pai added that as a nation, though we have the world’s best codes, we will stumble if we do not have an ethical code.
“I didn’t expect him to be so funny. I never thought the word ‘meme’ would come out of his mouth,” freshman Anayia Veremis said. “Everything he said was very intelligent, and I really appreciated that he cared enough to do research on the college.”
Pai left the audience of Hillsdale students with empowering words.
“You are carrying on Hillsdale’s strong tradition of graduating strong leaders,” Pai said. “Leaders who are brave enough to chart a course for our future rooted in timeless principles of our past.”