Trump names net neutrality foe Ajit Pai to lead the FCC

Pai opposed former Chairman Tom Wheeler's reclassification of broadband as a utility

President Donald Trump has named Commissioner Ajit Pai, an outspoken opponent of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, as the next head of the agency.

The choice was widely expected after Trump’s election last November. Pai is the senior Republican on the commission, having served since 2012. He doesn’t need to be confirmed by the Senate because he is already on the Commission.

Pai attacked the reclassification of broadband as a utility in 2015, saying it would place excessive burdens on service providers, other internet players and consumers. The expansion of broadband service through a competitive marketplace has been one of Pai’s themes as a commissioner.

“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,” Pai said in a statement Monday.

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed the net neutrality plan and former President Barack Obama strongly supported it. Trump and Republicans in Congress have criticized the rules and are expected to target them as part of an overall push for deregulation.

Although Pai can take over as chairman without a confirmation vote, he will need to be renominated and reconfirmed at the end of this year when his current term on the Commission expires.

The FCC customarily includes three members from the president’s party and two from the opposition. If Trump follows suit, he will name one more Republican and one more Democrat. In addition to Pai, Democrat Mignon Clyburn and Republican Michael O’Rielly are on the Commission now.

Pai grew up in Parsons, Kansas, the son of immigrants from India, according to his biography on the FCC’s site. In addition to several positions as an attorney in the federal government, he was an associate general counsel at Verizon from 2001 to 2003.

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