Net neutrality critic Ajit Pai may head FCC

FCC Ajit Pai
American President Donald Trump is likely to select Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to head the US telecom regulator.

He did not support net neutrality rules during the Obama administration. Several telecom operators also did not support net neutrality guidelines.

Ajit Pai, an Indian-American from Kansas, has been an FCC commissioner since 2012. During his roughly 15 years in government, he’s been a Senate staffer and worked at the FCC and the Justice Department. He was also a lawyer for telecom giant Verizon and an attorney at the law firm Jenner & Block.

Ajit Pai, one of the two Republican commissioners on a 5-member panel, was a strong critic of net neutrality rules under President Barack Obama, Bloomberg News and Politico reported on Friday, citing a person familiar with the transition.

Ajit Pai has dissented from the decisions of Democrats on the FCC that supported net neutrality provisions that forbid internet service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic to some users. Several broadband operators opposed net neutrality guidelines.

The Republicans’ majority in FCC would help them roll back pro-consumer policies that upset many phone and cable industry groups, including net neutrality rules that bar internet service providers from favoring some websites and apps over others.

Earlier, FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler had stepped down in the wake of Donald Trump becoming the new President.

In a December speech, Ajit Pai expressed confidence that the 2015 net neutrality rules would be undone and said the FCC needed to take a “weed whacker” to what he considered unnecessary regulations that hold back investment and innovation.

Ajit Pai had opposed online privacy regulations that force broadband providers to ask consumers for permission before using their data, saying they are more onerous than the requirements for internet companies like Google and Facebook.

The report said Ajit Pai voted against approving Charter Communication’s $67 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable and a smaller company, Bright House, because he thought some of the conditions required by the FCC, like barring data caps on home internet service, amounted to government meddling in business.

Ajit Pai criticized an FCC report on “zero rating” earlier this month, characterizing it as a meaningless document that won’t influence the FCC under Donald Trump. The report took issue with the way companies like AT&T and Verizon exempted their own video services from wireless data caps, effectively making them cheaper to stream on phones and tablets than rival services such as Netflix.

Ajit Pai voted to approve AT&T’s 2015 acquisition of DirecTV. The FCC currently has a 2-1 Republican majority and two empty seats, which will be filled by one Republican and one Democrat.