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Trump Taps Commissioner Ajit Pai to Head FCC

January 23, 2017, 10:53 PM UTC
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee hearing on "Examining the Proposed FCC Privacy Rules" on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2016. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Monday tapped Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai to head the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to roll back many of the Obama administration’s telecommunications and internet policies.

Pai, a former Justice Department, FCC and Capitol Hill staffer, in December said the administration’s landmark net neutrality rules adopted in 2015 would not last.

Pai, the son of Indian immigrants who grew up in Kansas, said last month the commission should take a “weed whacker” to unneeded rules and was harshly critical of many FCC regulations imposed during the Obama administration.

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“During the Trump Administration, we will shift from playing defense at the FCC to going on offense,” he said last month. “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation.”

Pai will also have a key role in deciding whether to approve or reject or impose conditions on mergers involving cable and telephone companies. In May, Pai opposed conditions imposed by the FCC on Charter Communication’s (CHTR) acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC).

Last week, then FCC chairman Tom Wheeler urged Republicans against dismantling the Obama administration’s landmark “net neutrality” protections that bar internet service providers from slowing consumer access to web content.

Net Neutrality: Who Wins and Loses?

Internet providers fear net neutrality rules make it harder to manage internet traffic and make investment in additional capacity less likely. The Republican-controlled Congress is also considering rewriting the net neutrality rules.

Pai has vowed to boost transparency at the FCC. Pai does not need Senate confirmation as chairman but his current term expires at the end of the year and he will need to be reconfirmed to continue.