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USA broadcasters are concerned about what comes next after the Federal Communications Commission's spectrum auction ends next month, but they're confident that Ajit Pai (R) will be a strong industry ally during his tenure as FCC chairman.

Pai believes otherwise: "The more hard government makes the business case for deployment, the less likely it is that broadband providers big and small will invest the billions of dollars needed to connect consumers with digital opportunity".

Asked how a regulator can stay independent in the face of comments from Trump, who appointed him, or his critics, Pai laughed and said to laughs from the audience: "It's wonderful to be in Barcelona". Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Pai said that unless the USA steps away from the what he sees as Wheeler's heavy-handed net neutrality rules and other interventions in the communications industry, telecom providers will be reluctant to spend the billions necessary to roll out infrastructure for 5G networks.

"The FCC made a decision to apply last-century, utility-style regulation to today's broadband networks".

Pai said that the reporting exemption will help small companies expand broadband service in rural areas.

Pai argued that net neutrality issues were having a damaging impact on the rollout of networks.

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"After all, networks don't have to be built. Capital doesn't have to be spent in the communications sector", he said - providing no evidence that telcos have scaled back their investments.

In October, she voted for the rules that were pushed by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. The FCC found that these companies would be negatively affected by these requirements given that they frequently serve rural areas that lack competitive alternatives to broadband service. Pai declined to say on Thursday if he would use that transfer to try to review the broader merger. They wrote, "Market realities refute any concerns about anticompetitive effects".

In an explanation for the move, Pai had previously pointed out the FTC has similar rules already in place making the FCC's action redundant.

Congress is in a position, theoretically, to bring USA laws up to date for the digital era and anything Pai could do to help that effort progress would be hugely beneficial.

He added: "We were not living in a digital dystopia... the internet should be free from heavy-handed government intervention, we should let the market forces regulate these decisions".

The FCC can press Congress to allocate additional funds for repacking, and the commission should also seek to provide more time for broadcasters to repack spectrum, broadcast executives said Tuesday.