Pai formally announces plans to leave FCC
Ajit Pai formally announced Monday that he will leave his position as chair of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20.
Stepping down from the FCC when a new president is inaugurated is an agency tradition.
Pai, a Republican promoted to chairman by President Trump, has had a tenure mired in controversy.
His most notable decision, the repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules that allowed the commission to go after service providers that discriminate against certain web traffic, is likely to be overturned shortly after Democrats have a 3-2 majority.
Other decisions, like overseeing the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, will be harder to reverse.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years,” Pai said in a statement.
He highlighted some of his other achievements in Monday’s statement, including “closing the digital divide” and designating 988 as the new number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
President-elect Joe Biden will now have the opportunity to either promote one of the two Democrats on the commission — Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks — or bring in a new chair from outside the FCC.
Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, who still has several years left on his term, is unlikely to depart. The other seat is up in the air.
Trump withdrew Mike O’Rielly’s nomination to serve another term on the commission shortly after O’Rielly spoke up against the president’s executive order targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make “good faith” efforts to moderate content.
The president’s new nominee, Nathan Simington, testified before the Senate earlier this month. However, his appointment is not guaranteed, given his role in drafting a controversial petition to reinterpret Section 230 and new reports that he tried to get Fox News’s Laura Ingraham to back it.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said during Simington’s hearing that he would block the nomination unless he agreed to recuse himself from Section 230 issues.
Updated at 11:36 a.m.
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