President Donald Trump renominated Republican Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai to serve another five-year term, which appears to signal the administration’s intent on rolling back regulations.
Trump reportedly met with Pai Monday afternoon, a meeting an FCC spokesperson described as “warm,” according to Axios.
“I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Trump to serve a second term on the Federal Communications Commission,” Pai said in an official statement. (RELATED: Trump Nomination Could Spell Disaster For Government’s Internet Takeover)
Pai, who is a lawyer and once worked for Verizon, is praised by telecommunications companies and a number of advocacy organizations for removing antiquated and useless regulations.
“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation,” Pai said in speech in December. “In the months to come, we also need to remove outdated and unnecessary regulations,” Pai continued, something that tech companies and some nonprofits have already noticed since the lecture.
“NAB [National Association of Broadcasters] congratulates Chairman Pai on his renomination for another term at the FCC. During his tenure at the Commission, he has shown a deep understanding of broadcasting’s indispensable role in serving American communities with free, local and lifeline programming,” the lobby group announced in a press release. The NAB says it appreciates Pai’s commitment to “reforming outdated media ownership rules.”
The four largest wireless providers in the U.S. — Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T — all launched new unlimited data plans in recent weeks, in an apparent attempt to capitalize on the change in leadership. (RELATED: Verizon Rolling Out Unlimited Data Plan As FCC Leadership Changes)
Pai is a staunch opponent to “net neutrality” — a concept the Obama administration pushed throughout its tenure. Net neutrality is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated the same, which some (like former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler) argue gives smaller Internet Service Providers (ISPs) an equal chance of succeeding in the marketplace.
AT&T was offering free services under its “DirecTV Now” feature, but the Obama administration’s FCC sent a letter to the company telling it to stop the practice since it violated net neutrality rules. The FCC contended that AT&T cannot offer free data for its own services, while charging for data used on other video-streaming companies, like Hulu and Netflix.
To tech companies and Pai, treating all data on the internet the same essentially makes it a public utility, which will limit competition, decrease incentives to innovate, and thus ultimately hurt the consumer.
Certain consumer advocacy groups, though, argue that Pai’s undoing of a few Wheeler-era mandates will ultimately cost certain people access to internet.
Pai was originally appointed as one of the five commissioners by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 at the request of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a traditional practice in the appointment process. He assumed office earlier this year after being named chairman of the FCC by Trump, and his ascension may reverse some of Obama’s plans for greater internet regulation.
“If I am fortunate to be confirmed by the Senate, I will continue to work with my colleagues to connect all Americans with digital opportunity, foster innovation, protect consumers, promote public safety, and make the FCC more open and transparent to the American people,” Pai concluded in his statement.
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