Ajit Pai is the new FCC's Chairman.
Ajit Pai is the new FCC's Chairman. Image: WCCFtech.

Donald Trump has picked Ajit Pai, a Republican lawyer and longtime member of the Federal Communications Commission, as its new Chairman of the FCC. Pai is a known critic of the Obama-era ‘Net Neutrality’ regulations.

Trump’s pick for the FCC does not come as a surprise, earlier reports on the matter pointed to Pai as the most likely candidate for the 45th President’s cabinet. His appointment comes amongst accusations of Net Neutrality violations by Verizon and AT&T.

The 44-year-old commissioner also inherits the position at a time in which most private companies, merged into the US Telecom trade group, are looking to overrule these Internet regulations.

If they succeed to do so, it would affect Internet costs and availability throughout the US, and not necessarily in a right way. However, this is still unlikely.

Mr. Pai’s career and policy stances

The newly-appointed Chairman opposed Net Neutrality from the very beginning and adopted a critical position towards Tom Wheeler, Obama’s FCC Chairman, via interviews and social media.

His primary argument is that these regulations were an excuse for more government controls over the telecom industry. He expressed to the Gale Group in an interview that the FCC should not “erect artificial barriers” against innovation, probably referring to this topic.

In another interview with Reason TV in 2015, he stated Net Neutrality regulations were “proven not to work,” and that his “sole concern” is “better consumer experience in the digital age.”

Mr. Pai has repeatedly stated his intention to make the FCC into a more industry-friendly regulatory institution. He opposed privacy regulations for broadband providers and user data, saying that companies like Facebook and Google did not receive a similar treatment.

In that respect, the Kansas native might have a point, as many privacy advocates would agree that those companies could use stricter controls, and pushing back the ones already in place does not seem like a good step forward.

Mr. Pai’s naming is worrisome for consumer advocates

Net Neutrality advocates fear that Pai’s potential deregulatory actions might result in bigger mergers, which might, in turn, create more dominant monopolies. This outcome would have a significant impact on broadband Internet prices.

Such a scenario might also eliminate certain protections for Internet users and worsen already hard-to-tackle problems, such as data caps.

In any case, Pai is likely to face stiff opposition from the remaining commissioners. Also, a significant FCC shift will take more time than privacy, and consumer-friendly institutions currently expect.

Source: The New York Times