Ajit Pai, Net Neutrality Foe, Expected to be Named FCC Chairman

Ajit Pai, Net Neutrality Foe, Expected to be Named FCC Chairman

Amidst the torrent of news and announcements and wailing and gnashing of teeth that has come since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, here's another shitty thing: Ajit Pai, an enemy of net neutrality and overall opponent of regulation, will be Trump's pick to lead the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC announced today. Pai would replace outgoing Chairman Tom Wheeler who he often times disagreed with on regulations handed down by the FCC during the Obama years, including Net Neutrality.

Pai is widely expected to be tapped as interim FCC chair when President-elect Trump becomes President on January 20 and could be named permanent chair as well, though his fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly is also in the conversation.

Like Wheeler before him, Pai has spent time directly serving telecom interests, having worked as a lawyer for Verizon from 2001 to 2003. His FCC term technically expired a year ago, but agency rules allow him to continue serving through 2017.

Pai's ascension to FCC's top spot may not be good news for net neutrality and an open internet.

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In June, the D.C. Circuit court upheld the FCC's net neutrality rules 2-1, a decision that will usher in challenges from incumbent telcos like AT&T and Verizon at the Supreme Court. Pai is one of the two Republicans on the five-member panel that now has three members after two Democrats departed during the change of presidential administrations.

Chris Pearson, President of 5G Americas commented, "5G Americas looks forward to working with the FCC's next Chairman on the important goals of providing more wireless spectrum to broadband consumers, as well as securing a leadership role for the United States in 5G".

The Republicans' FCC majority would help them roll back pro-consumer policies that upset many phone and cable industry groups, including net neutrality rules that bar internet service providers from favoring websites and apps over others.

Pai, who is 44, met Trump earlier this week, though Trump's transition team has given no details of the conversation. Wheeler has said that such moves could dramatically lessen large ISPs' ability to be affected by federal oversight. "I think it's going to be hard to just waltz in and say, 'We're going to overturn everything'".