He will stay on mission to “deliver value for the American people,” despite personal criticism, racial slurs, and death threats from the left, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
For facing down death threats to his family and himself over changes in public policy, Pai received the National Rifle Association’s Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award minutes before his remarks.
The NRA announced the award before Pai took part in a panel discussion at CPAC, titled “To Infinity and Beyond: How the FCC is Paving the Way for Innovation,” with fellow Republican appointees to the Federal Communications Commission.
“Some people encouraged me to try to nibble around the edges and make some minor changes [at the FCC], but I don’t play small ball. And I decided I wanted to make a fundamental change in the way the agency operates,” Pai said.
The NRA, a gun rights advocacy group, doesn’t limit its award to those known primarily for their advocacy of the Second Amendment. Past winners include longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Most of the threats to Pai came after he moved to end the Obama administration’s “net neutrality” rule, which imposed government regulation on internet service providers akin to those applied to public utilities.
“Those with memory and intellectual honesty will remember that we were not living in some digital dystopia before Washington bureaucracy saved us from ourselves,” Pai said, adding:
We decided the best way to encourage more investment and innovation in terms of the internet, getting better and faster and cheaper internet access out there, is to get rid of these heavy-handed regulations and let the market, backed up by consumer protection rules, decide how the internet is regulated.
The Obama administration’s FCC imposed net neutrality regulations in 2015. The administration said the rules would prevent internet service providers, such as Verizon and Comcast, from offering preferential service for high-traffic sites such as Google and Facebook.
“In terms of the vitriol, it has not been a pleasant time,” Pai said, adding:
So long as I have the privilege of serving in this position, I’m going to keep swinging for the fences and let the chips fall where they may,” the FCC chairman said. “It’s not going to deter my mission of delivering value for the American people, choosing that over getting a nice headline.
Pai was joined onstage by his two fellow Republican FCC commissioners, Brendan Carr and Mike O’Reilly.
CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs Thursday to Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.