Click here for video of the floor speech.
WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan spoke today on the Senate floor in opposition to the confirmation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, who President Trump re-nominated to serve another five-year term. The Senator highlighted Chairman Pai’s opposition to net neutrality, a position that stands at odds with tens of millions of Americans who have urged the FCC to protect strong net neutrality rules.
Key Points from Senator Hassan’s speech:
Click here for video or see below for Senator Hassan’s full remarks:
Mr. President, I rise today to oppose the re-nomination of Ajit Pai to serve as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. And I’ll start my remarks by acknowledging my friend, the Senator from Hawaii, and echoing his sentiments about the respect I have for Chairman Pai’s ability, his skill, his intelligence, and his dedication and commitment. But, I too, find myself - as a member of the Commerce committee – as somebody who has sat though testimony from Mr. Pai and watched a number of things unfold with regard to policy that is critically important to the people of New Hampshire and our country, and find that I too am in a position of being unable to support this nomination.
Mr. President, the FCC plays a critical role in overseeing our communications networks, protecting consumers, and ensuring that our nation’s businesses can compete on a level playing field.
Unfortunately, throughout his tenure at the FCC and particularly during his time as Chairman, Chairman Pai has not demonstrated a commitment to those goals.
To start, I have real concerns with the Chairman’s actions to undermine net neutrality and the impact that would have on people in New Hampshire and throughout our country.
Mr. President, a free and open internet is essential to consumers, essential to entrepreneurs and innovative small businesses that are the foundation of our economic success.
So, net neutrality is the concept that Internet Service Providers provide equal access to applications and content online – and they should not be able to discriminate against content and content providers by making certain web pages, applications, or videos load faster or slower than others.
Put simply, net neutrality ensures that even the smallest voices and businesses can be heard and can thrive.
People and businesses in New Hampshire know this. Granite Staters have called and written to my office in support of net neutrality.
And the FCC has received a record-breaking number of public comments – reaching tens of millions – from people looking to make their voices heard on this topic.
But Chairman Pai is not addressing the concerns of Americans who are speaking out.
Instead, he is listening to big cable companies and Internet Service Providers and taking direct aim at net neutrality protections. That is unacceptable.
Protecting net neutrality is essential, but with Chairman Pai at the FCC, these critical rules are in danger.
Mr. President, I also oppose his nomination because Chairman Pai is putting rural broadband advancements at stake.
Recently, Chairman Pai and the FCC released a Notice of Inquiry that raises questions about its goals – suggesting it will consider mobile broadband as an adequate replacement for fixed broadband – which would allow speeds that are two-thirds slower.
For many parts of New Hampshire – mobile is not dependable enough – or fast enough – to meet our economy’s needs, promote innovation, and connect young students with their homework.
We must address the challenges that rural communities face in getting access to broadband.
But by focusing instead on mobile broadband, the Chairman would have us leave rural America without a reliable connection.
Finally, Mr. President, I have concerns about Chairman Pai’s ability to adequately evaluate the pending Sinclair-Tribune merger that sits before the FCC.
For decades, our nation has maintained a policy that limits the number of broadcast stations that one company can own nationwide.
This policy has protected Americans by allowing them to receive robust and fair news content about their communities – and has provided a diversity of voices in the broadcast news media marketplace.
But this merger would result in Sinclair’s ability to reach over 70 percent of Americans across our country, far exceeding the Commission’s ownership caps – and threatening the diversity in broadcast news that Americans deserve and expect.
Since Chairman Pai took the lead of the FCC, the Commission has worked to loosen regulations regarding media ownership – and in turn, Sinclair benefitted.
As this proposed merger is still under consideration, we need someone at the helm of the FCC who will thoroughly vet the implications and ensure that it is in the public interest.
There is too much at stake with this merger, and Chairman Pai’s actions raise doubts that he can evaluate it impartially.
Mr. President, we need an FCC that is focused on putting consumers first – and ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to thrive in the 21st century economy.
There are simply too many concerns about Chairman Pai’s record, his ability to express impartiality on key decisions, and his goals for Federal Communications Commission priorities.
I will vote against Chairman Pai’s re-nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.
Thank you, Mr. President, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.