Drawing a parallel between India and the US while speaking about the challenges facing both countries in trying to provide connectivity to rural areas, influential US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai stated "As is the case in parts of Assam, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka, we have communities in Alaska, Utah, and Kansas that don't have access to the internet as well."
Ajit Pai was addressing the India Ideas Summit of the US-India Business Council on Wednesday, where he commended Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian Government for their ambitious goal of achieving universal Internet access by 2022 by way of pursuing bold strategies.
"I commend Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government for their ambitious goals of universal Internet access by 2022 and fixed broadband access to 50 percent of households by 2022," Pai said, adding, "To meet these targets, they're pursuing bold strategies such as installing two million public Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas and redesigning and expanding the Universal Service Obligation Fund"
He made a case for the need for government intervention in such cases, stating that despite planned efforts, millions of Indians and Americans still live in rural areas where there is currently no case for the private sector alone to build broadband networks. Pai highlighted how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Universal Service Fund provides federal subsidies to private carriers to leverage additional investment.
"Just this week, FCC authorised $167 million in universal service subsidies to connect 60,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in some of the hardest-to-connect corners of the US. Obviously, India's connectivity challenges are significantly different in nature and scale," Pai said.
Observing that 5G could be transformative, enabling things like telemedicine and precision agriculture, automotive safety and gaming, industrial IoT (Internet Of Things) and other breakthroughs that one can't even conceive today, Pai said one of their top priorities is to protect the security and integrity of the communications supply chain.
"When making decisions that impact 5G security, in particular, one needs to remember that the implications are wide-ranging. 5G will affect militaries, industries, critical infrastructure, and much more. The procurement and deployment decisions made now will have a generational impact on the country's security, economy, and society," he said.
Ajit Pai said he is looking forward to working with Indian and American business communities in the days ahead to connect, to propel, and to secure the digital future of the United States and India, two strong allies and two good friends.