Net neutrality opponent takes helm at FCC, proposes exemption in rules

UPDATE — 2/4, 1:31 p.m. EST: Under the leadership of new chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC informed three of the largest U.S. telecommunications companies on Friday that investigations into possible net neutrality violations are now over.

Previous to Pai’s promotion following Republican Donald Trump’s election, a Democratic-controlled panel sought to probe the corporations in question for offering free data plans when customers downloaded particular applications of their phones — possible a violation of neutrality rules.


Describing his appointment to lead the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a “deeply humbling honor,” former Verizon Communications attorney Ajit Pai was sworn in as the 32nd chairman of the FCC on Monday.

An outspoken critic of “net neutrality,” Pai will oversee an independent government agency with 1,200 employees and an annual budget of $338 million. The FCC is a five-member commission where members serve five-year terms, each appointed by the president.

Under Pai’s direction, an advocate for industry-led and private-sector solutions, the commission is expected to plot a path with less regulation.

A long-time lawyer with a rich legal background in corporate law and service in government, experts believe Pai will shift from the Obama-era Internet rules, which relied heavily on regulation, to a less-intrusive commission favoring a framework of less control from broadband to broadcast.

Although net-neutrality rules were affirmed in court rulings, it is expected Pai will revisit Internet regulations, particularly those which set privacy restrictions for service providers.  Similarly, Pai is known to desire to find methods to expand high-speed connections to rural areas and AM radio.

This week, Pai released a proposal that would extend a recently expired exemption in FCC net neutrality rules for small network providers with less than 100,000 customers. The plan would also increase the exemption to ISPs with up to 250,000 clients.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Pai’s family settled in Parsons, Kan., where his parents practiced medicine. After completing his undergraduate studies at Harvard, Pai received his J.D. at the University of Chicago and worked for the Justice Department.

Following his service at Justice, Pai briefly worked as a corporate lawyer for Verizon Communications before returning to Washington to serve as counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts.  Returning to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy briefly, Pai returned to the Senate, this time as counsel with the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.

Following his service with the Senate, Pai accepted a role at the FCC then briefly held a position in private practice before returning to the commission in 2012.

Now FCC chair, Mr. Pai serves with Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly; both were appointed by former President Barack Obama.


[New York Times] [The Daily Dot] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via Business Insider]