Conjecture over the last several weeks that Ajit Pai would be named the new chairman of the FCC was confirmed on Monday by President Trump.
Pai, a Republican, frequently wrote dissents to regulations advocated by former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, and in a speech back in December, Pai indicated confidence that the 2015 net neutrality rules would be undone. His statement that the FCC needed to take a “weed whacker” to what he considered unnecessary regulations is an oft-quoted observation.
“I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States for designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,” Pai says in a statement. “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.”
For now, Pai is heading up a three-member GOP-leaning Commission, which also includes fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn. One Republican and one Democrat will fill the two open seats.
“I offer my sincere congratulations and best wishes to my friend and colleague, Commissioner Ajit Pai, for being designated as Chair of the FCC,” O’Rielly says. “His thoughtful approach, deep knowledge base, and sense of humor have been great assets to the Commission, and it makes sense that President Trump hand-picked him to carry out the new Administration’s broad vision for the agency.”
Clyburn also offered her congratulations in a statement, adding “Ajit is bright, driven, and committed to bringing connectivity to all Americans. I am hopeful that we can come together to serve the public interest by supporting competition, public safety, and consumer protection.”
An FCC that tends toward deregulation is generally viewed as friendly toward the communications industry, of course. Two operators that offered their early congratulations were Comcast and CenturyLink.
“[Pai] has served with great distinction as a Commissioner over the past four and a half years, and has demonstrated that he is highly qualified to lead the Commission,” David L. Cohen, senior executive VP and chief diversity officer at Comcast, comments. “We commend his tireless efforts to develop and support policies that benefit American consumers and spur greater investment and innovation in broadband technologies to connect all Americans and drive job creation. This is a terrific appointment for the American consumer and the companies the FCC regulates and we look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Pai in his new role.”
CenturyLink SVP for Public Policy and Government Relations John F. Jones states that Pai is “extremely well qualified given his thorough understanding of the many challenges facing the rapidly changing communications industry.”
“We look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Pai, who will bring a much-needed free market approach to his new role,” Jones adds. “Hopefully this will result in the thoughtful elimination of outdated, unnecessary federal regulations that stifle investment and no longer reflect rapidly evolving consumer demands and the entry of innovative, new competitors.”
The Communications Workers of America used its statement to underline support of “the Open Internet.”
“High-speed internet is essential to economic and social life in the 21st century. We look to Chairman Pai to promote policies that encourage quality jobs and investment in broadband infrastructure to all Americans, protect an Open Internet, and preserve a diverse media that is so essential to our democracy,” CWA says.
“In March 2016, then-Commissioner Pai stated that the Federal Communications Commission ‘is at its best when it operates in a bipartisan, collaborative, and transparent manner.’ We hope that Chairman Pai will honor his statement and work with his colleagues to ensure that all Americans have affordable access to the internet through essential FCC programs, such as the modernized Lifeline program, E-rate support to schools and libraries, and the Connect America Fund.”
Public Knowledge, an advocacy group that supports net neutrality, congratulated Pai but was quick to stress its concerns.
“Commissioner Pai has a history of attacking consumer protections, from the Open Internet order to our right to privacy online. Even so, every Commissioner who has been elevated to Chairman discovers the job is very different from what he or she thought it would be,” Public Knowledge President and CEO Gene Kimmelman says. “Most quickly discover that getting things done while running an agency sometimes requires a different set of skills as well as a willingness to compromise.”
Kimmelman goes on to urge that Pai “preserve consumer protections and to focus on driving down prices and expanding choices for all essential communications services while preserving the Commission’s recent pro-competitive and consumer protection rules and actions.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations