President Trump on Monday designated Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the and an outspoken opponent of new net neutrality rules, to be the agency’s new chairman.
Pai, 44, would take over for Tom Wheeler, a Democrat who stepped down on Friday. Wheeler’s term had not expired but Trump gets to designate a new chairman as Republicans gain the FCC majority.
“I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans,” Pai said.
A telecommunications lawyer who has served on the FCC since May 2012, Pai is a free-market advocate who has been sharply critical of new regulations adopted by Democrats in recent years.
He takes the chairman’s office amid reports that Trump’s advisors want to scale back the FCC’s authority.
“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said in a speech last month looking ahead to Republican control of the FCC.
Pai, whose parents immigrated to the US from India, was associate general counsel of Verizon Communications from 2001-03 before working as a staffer at the US Senate, the Justice Department and the FCC.
Chief among Pai’s targets could be the net neutrality online traffic rules the FCC adopted on a partisan 3-2 vote in 2015.
The regulations are designed to ensure the free flow of online data by barring Internet service providers from discriminating against legal content flowing through their networks. To do that, the FCC imposed utility-like oversight of broadband providers.
Former President Obama, his fellow Democrats and consumer activists pushed for the tough regulations. But the move was strongly opposed by Pai and the FCC’s other Republican, Michael O’Rielly, as well as GOP lawmakers and broadband providers.
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