Washington: Ajit Pai, a Republican Federal Communications Commission member and foe of net neutrality regulation, will be named to head the agency, according to a person familiar with the transition.
Pai has often dissented as FCC Democrats voted for tighter regulations, including the 2015 open internet, or net neutrality, decision that forbids internet service providers from unfairly blocking or slowing web traffic. The rule opposed by AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. is among those likely to be reversed by president Donald Trump’s FCC, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts.
Pai declined to comment on the appointment, which was previously reported by Politico. The person familiar with the transition asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public.
Initially, Pai will lead an FCC with a 2-to-1 Republican majority, after two Democrats departed during the change of presidential administrations. Trump can name a Republican and another person to fill the two open seats with nominees that need Senate approval.
Pai, 44, was a lawyer for Verizon Communications Inc. before working at the US Senate and the US Justice Department, and as a staffer at the FCC. He became a commissioner in 2012.
Last year he greeted a court’s affirmation of the FCC’s open internet rule with a statement calling on opponents to “continue the legal fight.” As the rule passed he said it might be vacated by a court, reversed by Congress or overturned by a future FCC. “I do believe its days are numbered,” he said in a statement.
Pai has been more supportive of mergers than agency Democrats, for instance criticizing conditions, the FCC placed on AT&T in return for letting the company buy DirecTV. Pai voted against Charter Communications Inc.’s purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc. as a way to object to conditions placed on that deal.
Pai objected to October’s vote to set privacy rules that restrict how broadband companies use subscribers’ data while leaving undisturbed practices by online competitors such as Google and Netflix Inc., and he opposed a decision to carry over most rules restricting broadcast ownership.
Pai peppers his dissents about dry regulatory issues with asides and quotes, whether from French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Kerr (who wrote, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”) or “the Dude” in the movie The Big Lebowski (“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man”).
Pai, the son of doctors who immigrated from India to the US, was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Parsons, Kansas, a town of about 10,000 people. He graduated with honors from Harvard University in 1994 and from the University of Chicago Law School in 1997, where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review, according to his biography on the FCC’s website.