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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai confirms he will step down when Trump leaves office

Donald Trump appointed Pai in 2017. Pai is most directly responsible for the removal of Net Neutrality laws.

Published onNovember 30, 2020

  • Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai confirmed today that he will exit his post on January 20, 2021, when President Trump exits the White House.
  • Pai is the person most directly responsible for the removal of Net Neutrality laws previously put in place by President Obama.
  • It’s possible Pai’s exit will allow for the FCC board to sway back to Democrat control.

Today, Ajit Pai confirmed in a formal statement that he will exit his post as FCC Chairman on January 20, 2021. This is the same date that President Donald J. Trump — who appointed Pai to his current post — exits the White House.

Ajit Pai became FCC Chairman in 2017. Under his leadership, the FCC approved the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, established a national suicide-prevention phone number, and instituted new rules to help fight the deluge of robocalls Americans experience daily.

Related: FCC repeals Net Neutrality: What now?

However, Pai’s most enduring legacy will likely be his success at repealing Net Neutrality laws. First set in place by President Barack Obama, Net Neutrality laws established the internet as a public utility, similar to electricity, water, and heat. Pai’s removal of these laws gave much more control over the broadband industry to commercial enterprises such as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and others.

Ajit Pai leaving: What it could mean for you

The FCC has four commissioners and one chairman. These are not elected officials, but people appointed to their positions. Currently, there are three Republican officials — which includes Pai — and two Democrats. This 3-2 split is what allowed for Net Neutrality’s repeal (the two Democrats voted against repealing Obama’s measures).

Related: Here’s how tech companies are responding to the end of Net Neutrality

With Pai now exiting his post, it is possible the next chairman could be a Democrat. Additionally, Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is also set to exit his post sometime after Trump leaves office. This will leave two vacant spots that would likely be filled by President-elect Joe Biden. This could possibly sway the FCC panel to a 4-1 split in favor of Democrats.

It’s unclear what this would mean for the future, but it could result in some form of Net Neutrality coming back to the lawbooks.

In connected news, over the past two weeks, Comcast announced that it would both impose nationwide data caps for every one of its broadband users as well as raise pricing in 2021. These are two actions that Net Neutrality laws would have helped to prevent.

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