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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to leave telecom agency on January 20 before term ends

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to leave telecom agency on January 20 before term ends
Posted at 1:51 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 16:51:09-05

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, says he is leaving the telecommunications regulator on Inauguration Day.

President-elect Joe Biden will choose a new Democratic head for the agency. A new administration typically picks a new chairman.

The FCC typically has three commissioners of the majority party and two in the minority party. It currently has two Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, one of whom Biden could choose to elevate to chairman or choose someone from outside the agency.

Pai and another Republican commissioner, Michael O’Rielly, are leaving the agency. O’Rielly is leaving because the White House pulled his nomination after he said he wasn’t sure the agency had authority on Section 230. Congress is weighing the nomination of another Republican, Nathan Simington.

Pai has presided over a contentious FCC. He undid net neutrality rules that barred internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T from favoring some types of online traffic over others in 2017 and championed other deregulatory efforts.

The incoming FCC is likely to try to reinstate net neutrality rules and focus on getting internet service to more Americans.

They will likely not act on a recent directive from the Trump administration to look at Section 230 in an effort to regulate social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. Section 230 shields internet companies from lawsuits about posts by users. The Trump administration has gone after the law, alleging with no evidence that social networks censor conservatives.

Pai had recently said the FCC could move forward making rules around Trump's directive about looking at Section 230.