Republican Ajit Pai named new FCC chairman

Republican Ajit Pai named new FCC chairman
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President Trump is naming Ajit Pai chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Pai, a Republican commissioner for the agency, confirmed the decision in a statement Monday.

“I am deeply grateful to the President of the United States for designating me the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,” Pai’s statement read. “I look forward to working with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”

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The Hill reported on Friday that Trump would tap Pai to replace former Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat. Under Trump, Republicans will have a majority on the commission.

A source told The Hill they expect Pai's appointment to be permanent and not just as acting commissioner. 

Pai, who is a favorite of industry groups, opposed many of Wheeler's initiatives since first being appointed to the FCC in 2012. That includes staunch opposition to Wheeler's net neutrality rules.

The new chairman has already made clear he would like to review the rules, which require broadband providers to treat all internet traffic the same, and possibly scale them back.

“We congratulate Ajit Pai on his appointment as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnRyan praises FCC chief's plans to roll back net neutrality A bipartisan drum beat for music artists’ performance rights FCC head unveils plan to roll back net neutrality MORE (R-Tenn.). 

"He has served with great distinction as a Commissioner over the past four and a half years, and has demonstrated that he is highly qualified to lead the Commission."

Walden and Blackburn have aligned with Pai on many policies, and the new chairman has had good relations with congressional Republicans.

Ranking Democrat on the Committee Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.) along with Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA  issued a more critical statement to Pai. The two asked him to make three key commitments as Chairman: to ensure that the Commission is responsive and brief's Committee leadership on major FCC matters; work in a bi-partisan fashion on major FCC decision; and to not penalize FCC employees for their work under Wheeler.

Comcast, a major net neutrality opponent, was quick to congratulate Pai on Monday.

“We congratulate Ajit Pai on his appointment as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission,” David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer at Comcast, said in a statement.

“We commend his 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 story was updated at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 23.