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24 January 2017
| James Pearce
President Donald Trump has named Republican Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), after previous chair Tom Wheeler stepped down.
Pai, who previously served as counsel for Verizon
Communications has sat on the FCC board since he was nominated
by President Barack Obama for a Republican Party position in
In a statement, Pai said: "I am deeply grateful to the
President of the United States for designating me the 34th
chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. 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 is the first Republican chairman since Kevin Martin 12
years ago. His appointment will raise questions over the future
net neutrality rules
introduced by predecessor Tom Wheeler in February 2015.
He is an outspoken opponent of net neutrality and voted
against the current rules, labelling them a "dangerous" assault
on the "culture of the First Amendment."
In a note in December, Pai said: "On the day that the Title
II [net neutrality] Order was adopted, I said that 'I don't
know whether this plan will be vacated by a court, reversed by
Congress, or overturned by a future Commission. But I do
believe that its days are numbered.
"Today, I am more confident than ever that this prediction
will come true... I'm hopeful that beginning next year, our
general regulatory approach will be a more sober one that is
guided by evidence, sound economic analysis, and a good dose of
In the past, Pai has also signalled that he is in favour of
mergers and acquisitions. During talk of a potential merger
between Comcast and Time Warner Cable in 2013, Pai said that a
"Republican administration likely would be more inclined to
approve a deal."
The reaction to Pai’s appointment has been
positive. Industry trade body 5G Americas congratulated Trump
on the move.
Pai now takes over an FCC board that has fallen from five
members to just three, following Wheeler’s
departure and the failure of Congress to accept Jessica
Rosenworcel’s renomination after nearly a
Trump will be tasked with selecting two more members of the
board, but will not be able to appoint more than one
Republican, due to strict partisanship rules.
Federal Communications Commission,