Ajit Pai is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He was designated Chairman by President Donald J. Trump in January 2017. He had previously served as Commissioner at the FCC, appointed by then-President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate in May 2012.
Chairman Pai’s regulatory philosophy is informed by a few simple principles. Rules that reflect these principles will result in more innovation, more investment, better products and services, lower prices, more job creation, and faster economic growth.
- Consumers benefit most from competition, not preemptive regulation. Free markets have delivered more value to American consumers than highly regulated ones.
- No regulatory system should indulge arbitrage; regulators should be skeptical of pleas to regulate rivals, dispense favors, or otherwise afford special treatment.
- Particularly given how rapidly the communications sector is changing, the FCC should do everything it can to ensure that its rules reflect the realities of the current marketplace and basic principles of economics.
- As a creature of Congress, the FCC must respect the law as set forth by the legislature.
- The FCC is at its best when it proceeds on the basis of consensus; good communications policy knows no partisan affiliation.
Broadband is critical in modern American life. Especially when it comes to innovation, the Internet has leveled the playing field. It’s created a phenomenon that Chairman Pai calls the “democratization of entrepreneurship.” With a good idea and a broadband connection, entrepreneurs anywhere can compete in ways unthinkable a generation ago.
Yet too many Americans still don’t have broadband. They are left on the other side of the “digital divide.” Chairman Pai has seen this for himself, from Barrow, Alaska to Fayetteville, West Virginia.
That’s why he has proposed a comprehensive plan to promote broadband deployment to all Americans. The federal government must make it easier to for broadband providers to retire increasingly obsolete copper lines in favor of next-generation technologies like fiber. It must enable rural residents to have the same choice for stand-alone broadband typically found in cities. It must create a roadmap for state and local governments so that companies that want to compete in the broadband market don’t have to jump through unnecessary regulatory hoops in order to lay fiber to consumers. It must promote common-sense policies like “Dig Once” and reform pole attachment rules to reduce the costs of building digital networks. It must streamline the process for deploying wireless infrastructure, from big towers to small cells. It must free up more licensed spectrum for use by wireless carriers and more unlicensed spectrum for things like Wi-Fi. And it must preserve Internet freedom here and abroad, so that the online world can flourish free from heavy-handed government intervention.
Chairman Pai has been an outspoken defender of First Amendment freedoms. When the FCC proposed to send researchers into newsrooms to question why reporters cover some stories and not others, Chairman Pai sounded the alarm. Soon after, the FCC canceled the study. Chairman Pai has also spoken out about threats to free speech here and abroad and has warned against government efforts to regulate the marketplace of ideas.
Public safety is a top priority for Chairman Pai. He took action to ensure that consumers can reach emergency services whenever they dial 911. He has also called on the FCC to help law enforcement combat the rising threat posed by contraband cellphones in our jails and prisons. And he’s pushed for the advancement of Next Generation 911, an Internet-based system which will help keep Americans safe.
Chairman Pai has fought to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs. He was the first commissioner to demand an end to corporate welfare in a recent major spectrum auction; the agency ultimately agreed, saving taxpayers over $3 billion. He has been outspoken against the waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program, leading an investigation into the issue. And he wants to make sure that every federal program under the FCC’s purview gets the most bang for the buck.
Taking the Initiative and Getting Results
In addition to the accomplishments mentioned above, Chairman Pai was the first member of the FCC in over two decades to call for revitalizing the AM radio band; the basic reforms he proposed were adopted in 2015. He also urged the FCC to create a task force to study the “Internet Protocol Transition” and report on obsolete rules that could be repealed; that task force was created. He proposed a way for the FCC to address petitions filed by the public much more quickly; that “rocket docket” is now in place and has dramatically sped up the agency’s decision-making. With respect to outside review and oversight, in at least half a dozen high-profile cases in which he dissented, federal courts of appeals have upheld his position. And in other such cases, one or both Houses of Congress has passed legislation consistent with his position.
Jenner & Block, LLP. Partner, 2011 – 2012
Federal Communications Commission. Deputy General Counsel, Associate General Counsel, and Special Advisor to the General Counsel, 2007 – 2011
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Chief Counsel, Chairman Sam Brownback, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights, 2005-2007
U.S. Department of Justice. Senior Counsel, Office of Legal Policy, 2004 – 2005
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Deputy Chief Counsel, Chairman Jeff Sessions, Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Court, 2003-2004
Verizon Communications Inc. Associate General Counsel, 2001 – 2003
U.S. Department of Justice. Trial Attorney (Attorney General’s Honors Program), Antitrust Division, Telecommunications Task Force, 1998 – 2001
Hon. Martin L.C. Feldman, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Law Clerk, 1997 – 1998
Chairman Pai graduated with honors from Harvard University in 1994 and from the University of Chicago Law School in 1997, where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review and won the Thomas R. Mulroy Prize. In 2010, Pai was one of 55 individuals nationwide chosen for the 2011 Marshall Memorial Fellowship, a leadership development initiative of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
The son of immigrants from India, Chairman Pai grew up in Parsons, Kansas. He now lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Janine; son, Alexander; and daughter, Annabelle.
Chief of Staff
Matthew Berry serves as the Commission’s Chief of Staff. He has previously served as the Commission's General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel. In those roles, he was responsible for providing legal advice to the Commission and managing the Commission's litigation docket. Prior to joining then-Commissioner Pai’s office in 2012, he was a Partner at Patton Boggs LLP, where he was a member of the firm's Technology and Communications practice group. Mr. Berry has also worked at the United States Department of Justice, serving as Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy and an attorney-adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel. During his tenure there, he earned the Department's John Marshall Award for providing legal advice related to counter-terrorism policy.
Mr. Berry has also served as a law clerk for United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Laurence Silberman of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Additionally, he has worked as a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice. Mr. Berry graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and received his J.D. from Yale Law School.
Mr. Degani has served as Chairman Pai’s Senior Counsel since January 2017, except for a six-week period during which he served as the agency’s Acting General Counsel. From June 2012 through January 2017, Mr. Degani served as then-Commissioner Pai’s Wireline Legal Advisor. He joined the office from a detail to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, where he served as counsel under Chairman Fred Upton and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden. Before his detail, Mr. Degani served as an Attorney Advisor in the Wireline Competition Bureau’s Telecommunications Access Policy Division and Competition Policy Division, as well as the Commission’s Office of General Counsel. Mr. Degani entered the Commission through the Attorney Honors Program. Earlier in his career, Mr. Degani clerked for Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and magna cum laude from Yale University, where he studied Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and History.
Michael Carowitz recently served as Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission, where he led one of the Commission's largest organizational units, including its field offices around the country. For two decades, Mr. Carowitz has held positions within the communications law field, including an association with a leading Washington DC law firm and service as in-house legal counsel for a start-up provider of broadband and other telecommunications services. While at the Commission, from 2013 until January 2017, Mr. Carowitz was Deputy Chief of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau. Prior to that, he served for seven years (2005-2012) as Associate Chief/ Chief of Staff of the Commission's Enforcement Bureau. He received his J.D., cum laude, and his B.A, from the University of Michigan.
For the past two years, Mr. Leamer served as the Outreach Manager and a Senior Fellow at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank at which he managed the institute’s government relations and wrote extensively on emerging technology, innovation policy, and public safety. Mr. Leamer has also worked at Generation Opportunity, a millennial advocacy organization. Prior to these roles, he served as a legislative aide for U.S. Representative Justin Amash as well as a legislative assistant in the Michigan House of Representatives. Mr. Leamer received his undergraduate degree from Calvin College.
Alison Nemeth Steger
Ms. Steger advises Chairman Pai on media issues. Ms. Steger joined the office from the Media Bureau, where she served as a Legal Advisor. She came to the Commission through the Attorney Honors Program, and she has worked on a variety of legal and policy issues in both the Media and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus relating to broadcast television licensing, transactions, the broadcast incentive auction, privacy, and device security. Previously, Ms. Steger worked as an interim legal advisor for media issues in then-Commissioner Pai's Office. Ms. Steger received her J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and obtained a certificate from its Institute for Communications Law Studies. Ms. Steger received her undergraduate degree from Lafayette College.
Wireless and International Advisor
Ms. Bender will advise Chairman Pai on wireless and international issues. Ms. Bender joins the office from the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, where she worked on competition issues and efforts to streamline infrastructure deployment. Before coming to the Commission, Ms. Bender served for over five years at the wireless trade association Mobile Future—most prominently as Senior Policy Director—where her work focused on a broad range of spectrum policy matters. Ms. Bender graduated from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law with a certificate from its Institute for Communications Law Studies and from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she earned her B.A. in Government and Politics.
Public Safety and Consumer Protection Advisor
Mr. Nakazawa will advise Chairman Pai on public safety, homeland security, consumer protection, and enforcement issues. Mr. Nakazawa joins the office from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, where he served as chief of the Policy and Rules Division. In that capacity, he oversaw several key portfolios, including Next Generation 911, emergency alerting, public safety spectrum issues, as well as issues concerning law enforcement and national security. Prior to that, he served as deputy chief of the division and as a staff attorney and acting legal adviser in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. He also worked in Japan as a Mansfield Fellow. Mr. Nakazawa graduated from the University of Richmond, T.C. Williams School of Law, and received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Bucknell University.
Ms. Patel will advise Chairman Pai on wireline issues. Ms. Patel recently served as a Legal Advisor in the Office of Commissioner Brendan Carr, where she advised on media, wireless, public safety, international, consumer protection, and enforcement matters. Prior to that, she served as a Deputy Chief in the Competition Policy Division of the Wireline Competition Bureau. Before joining the Commission in January 2017, Ms. Patel was Counsel in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications practice of Hogan Lovells US LLP. Previously, she practiced communications law at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Sidley Austin LLP. Ms. Patel graduated summa cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law and received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acting Special Counsel
Mr. Wise will advise Chairman Pai on wireline issues. Mr. Wise joins the Chairman's Office from the Wireline Competition Bureau, where he has served as an attorney-advisor in the Telecommunications Access Policy Division. Prior to joining the Commission in January 2017, he worked as an attorney for Smith Porsborg Schweigert Armstrong Moldenhauer & Smith in Bismarck, North Dakota. He earned his J.D. from the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and his B.S. in Economics from North Dakota State University.
For the past four years, Ms. Alexiou has been Commissioner Pai's confidential assistant. She joined the office from the Commission's Office of General Counsel, where she was a Litigation Specialist. Before that, she served as Confidential Assistant to Commissioner Meredith A. Baker and Chairman Kevin J. Martin. Prior to joining the Commission, Ms. Alexiou worked at the law firms of Wiley Rein LLP and Fisher, Wayland, Cooper and Leader. She started her career working for a physician's practice in Pennsylvania.
Ms. Roane-Wiley assists Mr. Berry, Mr. Degani, and Mr. Carowitz. Since returning to the FCC in 2014, Andi has served in various roles, including most recently as staff assistant in the office of Commissioner Brendan Carr. In prior FCC service, Andi served as the special assistant to the chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Previously, she worked as an executive assistant for more than two decades in the private sector.
Ms. Erwin assist Ms. Patel, Ms. Bender, and Mr. Nakazawa. For the past four years, she has served as the staff assistant to the office of Chairman Pai. Previously, she was the assistant for William Lake, Chief of the Media Bureau. Ms. Erwin began her career at the Commission in 2000.
Mr. Minnix assists Ms. Steger and Mr. Wise. He joined the Chairman’s Office from the Enforcement Bureau’s Spectrum Enforcement Division, where he was a Staff Assistant. Mr. Minnix had served in that Division since 2007.
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