Trump’s FCC Chairman Pick Ajit Pai Wins Industry Cheers, Consumer Activist Jeers
President Trump today formally designated FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai to become the agency’s chairman, replacing Tom Wheeler who resigned with the change in administrations.
In his nearly five years on the FCC, Pai, 44, vigorously opposed nearly all of Wheeler’s top initiatives including the decision to reclassify the internet as a communications medium subject to net neutrality rules.
A former lawyer for Verizon, Pai was raised in Kansas and earned his law degree from the University of Chicago where he edited the law review.
He says he’s “deeply grateful” for the appointment and hopes to “bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”
His GOP colleague on the FCC, Michael O’Rielly, lauded the new chairman’s “thoughtful approach, deep knowledge base, and sense of humor” that will help him to “carry out the new Administration’s broad vision for the agency.”
The lone remaining Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, calls Pai “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.”
President Trump will have an opportunity to appoint two additional commissioners to the five-member body. The party in power typically controls three of the seats.
Regulated companies, trade groups, and public interest activists are starting to weigh in on the appointment. Here’s a sampling:
Comcast Chief Diversity Officer David Cohen
We commend [Pai’s] 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.
NCTA – The Internet & Television Association CEO Michael Powell, a former FCC chairman
During his tenure on the Commission, Chairman Pai has consistently demonstrated a common-sense philosophy that consumers are best served by a robust marketplace that encourages investment, innovation and competition. We stand ready to assist Chairman Pai and his colleagues in their effort to promote policies which ensure that America remains a global internet, communications and entertainment leader.
USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter:
We share Commissioner Pai’s vision for a ‘Broadband First’ future based on a bold but pragmatic strategy to erase the many regulatory barriers impeding the expansion of our nation’s communications infrastructure, and the jobs and economic opportunity that depend on it.
Common Cause Special Adviser Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner:
As a bit of unsolicited advice I encourage the new Chairman to take the Commission outside of Washington, so Commissioners can meet with and hear from the people who live with the policies they make. I am totally convinced the majority of Americans, including many who voted for the new president, strongly favor an open internet and a media ecosystem that is up to the task of informing democracy.
Andrew Schwartzman, long time consumer advocate:
The public interest community will not be happy about Commissioner Pai’s promotion to Chairman. He is not only an outspoken detractor from many of the important advances we obtained under Chairman Wheeler, but he is also extremely smart and knowledgeable. He will be a formidable opponent.
Free Press CEO Craig Aaron:
Ajit Pai has been on the wrong side of just about every major issue that has come before the FCC during his tenure. He’s never met a mega-merger he didn’t like or a public safeguard he didn’t try to undermine. He’s been an inveterate opponent of Net Neutrality, expanded broadband access for low-income families, broadband privacy, prison-phone justice, media diversity and more….If Trump really wanted an FCC chairman who’d stand up against the runaway media consolidation that he himself decried in the AT&T/Time Warner deal, Pai would have been his last choice — though corporate lobbyists across the capital are probably thrilled.
Parents Television Council President Tim Winter
Commissioner Pai has demonstrated his support for enforcing the longstanding broadcast indecency law, which gives the FCC authority to protect the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves from indecent content during times of the day when children are likely to be watching. He has always been a conscientious listener when the PTC has raised other matters of concern. And as a father of young children himself, he understands that media content can have a powerful and profound impact on children.