Net Neutrality Foe Ajit Pai Officially Named FCC Chairman

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As expected, President Trump has elevated Ajit Pai from his FCC Commissioner to Chairman, clearly establishing that the new administration seeks to undo the telecommunications regulations of the previous White House.

Pai, who has been on the five-member Commission since being appointed by President Obama in 2012, announced the news himself this afternoon via Twitter. In the series of rapid-fire Tweets, he referred to his new gig as a “deeply humbling honor.”

“I look forward to working with the new Administration, FCC colleagues, members of Congress, and the public on behalf of all Americans,” he continued. “There is so much we can do together to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans and to promote innovation and investment.”

He then concluded by referencing Thomas Jefferson’s famous inaugural line that “We are all republicans: we are all federalists,” updating it to “From broadband to broadcast… we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats.”

Pai’s tenure on the Commission has been marked by definite partisanship, with he and fellow GOP Commissioner Michael O’Rielly not only voting against most of the initiatives put forth by the FCC’s previous Democratic leadership, but doing so in the form of lengthy, often virulent and hyperbolic dissents.

“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation,” he recently said about the future direction of the FCC.

The primary target of that weed-whacking is likely to be the 2015 Open Internet Order (better known to the kids as “Net Neutrality”), which prohibits internet service providers from favoring, blocking, or slowing down traffic based on where it’s coming from.

On the day in Feb. 2015 when the FCC voted to approve these rules, Pai spent a full 30 minutes railing against the regulation, repeatedly politicizing it by referring to Net Neutrality as “Obama’s plan to regulate the internet,” and claiming that new taxes and fees were coming, even though the rule does not allow for such charges.

Pai has repeatedly come out against virtually any regulation that would impose cost or additional restriction on telecom and broadband providers.

“The FCC should only adopt a regulation if it determines that its benefits outweigh its costs,” Pai has said.

Because he is a standing Commissioner and has already gone through the Senate confirmation process, Pai did not need to go through a second round of approvals to be boosted to the Chairman’s seat.

Former Commissioner Michael Copps — who was elevated to Acting Chairman in the early days of the Obama administration — has some words of advice for Pai.

“I encourage the new Chairman to take the Commission outside of Washington, so Commissioners can meet with and hear from the people who live with the policies they make,” said Copps, who is now a special adviser to advocacy organization Common Cause. “I am totally convinced the majority of Americans, including many who voted for the new president, strongly favor an open internet and a media ecosystem that is up to the task of informing democracy.”

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