“We want to make sure that our regulations match the realities of the modern marketplace,” new FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai told reporters last week.

In his first days on the job after being appointed by President Trump, Pai is making good on those words.He also is taking steps to address “digital divide” issues.

.The FCC often took stances that angered the phone and cable industries under the Obama administration. It’s already starting to lean the other way under Trump.

The regulator of broadcast TV and internet services says cellphone companies that exempt some services from data caps are good for consumers after all.

That effectively cuts prices for these services, usually ones owned by the phone company. But many consumer advocates say that ultimately hurts consumers by undermining other, independent services.

The FCC, in the waning days of the Obama administration, had criticized AT&T for exempting its DirecTV Now live-TV streaming service from AT&T data caps on cellphones.

The FCC had issued a report in January saying AT&T’s and Verizon’s practices, known as “zero rating,” were likely anti-consumer, but that did not require them to change what they were doing.

Pai said Friday that “free-data plans” are popular with consumers and improve competition. The agency’s moves on Friday may mean that “zero rating” becomes more common.

Other Obama-era policies are threatened . Pai has long maintained that the FCC under Chairman Thomas Wheeler had overstepped its bounds, suggesting that he would steer the agency in a direction more favorable to big phone and cable companies. In a December speech, he said the FCC needed to take a “weed whacker” to what he considered unnecessary regulations that hold back investment and innovation. Rules in jeopardy include “net neutrality,” which bars internet service providers from favoring some websites and apps over others.

Earlier, Pai said a priority is “to remove unnecessary or counterproductive regulations from the books.”

Pai also declined to say if thought the AT&T Inc Time Warner Inc merger should be subject to FCC review.

  • Digital divide move

In another move, the FCC said Pai was forming a new federal advisory committee “to explore ways to accelerate deployment of high-speed Internet access (or “broadband”) nationwide and to close the digital divide.”

“Access to broadband is increasingly critical for all Americans, no matter who they are or where they live,” Pai said in a statement. “It’s becoming the 21st-century gateway to jobs, health care, education, information, and economic development everywhere, from the smallest town to the largest city. That makes it imperative for us to remove regulatory barriers to the deployment of high-speed Internet access.”

The FCC noted that the committee would “focus on developing specific recommendations on how the FCC can encourage broadband deployment across America. Issues the Committee will tackle include further reforms to the FCC’s pole attachment rules; identifying unreasonable regulatory barriers to broadband deployment; ways to encourage local governments to adopt deployment-friendly policies; and other reforms within the scope of the Commission’s authority.”

Other points made in the announcement:

  • [O]ne of the Committee’s first tasks will be drafting a model code covering local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations. Many localities may not currently have or be able to develop policies conducive to deployment. With a model code approved by the FCC, any city could build a better regulatory environment for deployment, and any provider would have a better case for installing infrastructure.
  • Nominees for the newly formed Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee will be drawn from a diverse set of stakeholders to address specific regulatory barriers to broadband deployment in both urban and rural areas. Representatives of consumers and community groups, the communications industry, and federal, state, local, and Tribal officials are encouraged to apply.
  • Individuals or organizations interested in serving on the Committee should visit www.fcc.gov/broadband-deployment-advisory-committee for information on the nominating process. Please submit all nominations by e-mail to BDAC@fcc.gov.
  • The FCC will accept nominations until Feb. 15. The Commission expects to hold its first meeting of the new Committee during the spring of 2017.

For additional information about the Committee, please contact Brian Hurley, the Designated Federal Officer for the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, at (202) 418-2220 or (Brian.Hurley@fcc.gov), or Paul D’Ari, the Deputy Designated Federal Officer, at (202) 418-1550 or (Paul.DAri@fcc.gov). Press inquiries should be directed to Mark Wigfield, (202) 418-0253.