Trump Taps FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai to Be Agency Chairman
Pai has been critic of net neutrality, other Obama-era rules; wants to roll back regulations hindering investment
By JOHN D. MCKINNON, Wall Street Journal
President Donald Trump named Ajit Pai, a GOP member of the Federal Communications Commission, to be the agency’s chairman. The designation of Mr. Pai, a sitting commissioner, allows the new administration to hit the ground running in the telecommunications area, a huge and dynamic part of the economy. Mr. Pai brings a staunchly free-market approach that generally appears to jibe with Mr. Trump and his economic advisers.
Mr. Pai, a lawyer and former Senate aide, has been a frequent critic of new telecommunications rules pushed by the Obama administration, including its far-reaching net-neutrality regulations, designed to ensure that all internet traffic is treated equally. Mr. Pai, 44, has suggested in recent weeks that he intends to apply a “weed whacker” to various FCC rules that he thinks could hinder investment in new broadband capacity.
In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mr. Pai said he was “deeply grateful” to Mr. Trump. He said he looks forward to working with other policy makers, including Congress, to bring the “benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”
Mr. Pai likely would be able to move quickly on some of his priorities, such as rolling back aspects of the net-neutrality regulations. The five-member commission will have a 2-1 GOP majority, with two seats vacant, following Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler’s already announced resignation.
But some steps likely would require legislation by Congress, which could take a while, given other priorities such as health-care and tax overhauls. Some observers believe Congress is more likely to take up major telecommunications changes next year.
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Mr. Pai has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2012, when he was appointed by then-President Obama and confirmed by the Senate. He has long been critical of net neutrality, saying that the problem it’s trying to solve — big internet providers acting as gatekeepers to what we see and do online — doesn’t exist. He recently reiterated a prediction that the commission’s Open Internet Order, which established net neutrality, would be reversed or overturned in one way or another. He’ll now have the chance to play a role in that.
“On the day that the Title II Order was adopted, I said that ‘I don’t know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress, or overturned by a future commission. But I do believe that its days are numbered,’” Pai said. “Today, I am more confident than ever that this prediction will come true.”
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