Ajit Pai to Step Down as FCC Chairman on Inauguration Day

Ajit Pai, the controversial Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced Monday that he would be stepping down from his position on the same day Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn into office. In his statement, Pai called leading the FCC “the honor of a lifetime” as the first Asian-American to be its chair.

The announcement means that the FCC could reach a Democratic majority sooner than it would otherwise be able to. Pai joined the FCC as Commissioner under President Barack Obama in 2012 and was appointed its chairman by Donald Trump in 2017. He began his term with the controversial decision to roll back Title II classification, undoing the net neutrality rules put in place under President Obama.

Ajit Pai
Photo Credit: Flickr Gage Skidmore

More recently, Pai oversaw the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, which he called “a unique opportunity to speed up the deployment of 5G throughout the United States.” Pai also implemented new measures to fight robocalls and established a national suicide prevention hotline number. Pai’s tenure coincided with a significant shift in Republican telecom policy, with Republican commissioners like Brendan Carr advocating for a more aggressive FCC role in regulating social media platforms.

But with his tenure also came the widespread use of the free radio airwaves to spread Republican propaganda. Voice of America saw a mass exodus of staff when it was announced that controversial filmmaker Michael Pack was chosen by Trump to take over as head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). While the FCC is a separate entity, the appointments of both Pai and Pack were intended to suppress truthful information not just across America, but around the world on all of VOA’s affiliates.

Ironically, Pai’s statement brags about the agency’s “new transparency” under his leadership. “For the first time ever, we’ve made public drafts of the proposals and orders slated for a vote three weeks before the agency’s monthly meetings,” Pai said, “making this the most transparent FCC in history.”

Pai’s term was slated to expire in June 2021, though Biden will be able to choose a Democrat to chair the commission once in office. Commissioners must be confirmed by the Senate.


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