UPDATED with statement from Ajit Pai: Donald Trump plans to nominate sitting Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai as the agency’s new chairman, Politico reported today, citing industry sources. If so he would replace outgoing Democrat Tom Wheeler, whose run as the head of the government body overseeing the communications industry officially ended today.
Pai is an Obama nominee who has been an FCC commissioner for the past three-plus years. Pai met with Trump on Monday.
“I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States for designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,” Pai said 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.”
He would front an agency currently comprised of Pai, Democrat and acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, and Republican Michael O’Rielly. Senate Republicans did not confirm Democrat commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for a new term before they left on recess last month. Her term ended January 3.
The incoming Trump administration is expected to oppose many of the initiatives Wheeler championed during his leadership including tough enforcement of net neutrality, open competition for cable set-top boxes, and empowering consumers to limit the sale or sharing of data about their Internet use that service providers collect. Those positions made Wheeler an unexpected hero to consumer and open Internet advocates.
According to a Broadcasting And Cable report, Trump has indicated he is prepared to revamp the FCC, possibly turning some of its functions over to other government agencies including the Federal Trade Commission. B&C reported that Trump “is said to have signed off” on a plan endorsed by Pai and O’Rielly.