Donald Trump plans to elevate FCC commissioner Ajit Pai to lead the agency, replacing outgoing Chairman Tom Wheeler, Politico reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. An official announcement could come as soon as this afternoon.
Pai, first appointed by President Obama for a Republican seat on the commission, has been a reliably conservative voice, often speaking out for deregulation and opposing progressive measures from the Democratic majority. He has widely been seen as a frontrunner in the race for a new chairman, and while it was suggested he may be made interim leader, Politico reports the move is permanent.
When the Wheeler-led FCC’s net neutrality rules were passed in 2015, Pai was one of the most vocal sources of dissent, along with fellow Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly. After Trump’s ascent to the presidency, concluding with today’s inauguration, those rules are in danger, and Pai’s nomination will do little to ease concerns for supporters of the rules.
At the time the rules were passed, Pai said they would lead to "higher broadband prices, slower broadband speeds, less broadband deployment, less innovation, and fewer options for consumers." He has been similarly critical of privacy rules and other regulatory measures approved by the commission.
In a speech last month, Pai vowed that the new commission under the Trump administration would take a “weed whacker” to regulations passed under Obama.