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Ajit Pai to Be Named Next FCC Chairman (Report)

Variety logo Variety 1/20/2017 Ted Johnson

Ajit Pai, a Republican FCC commissioner, is expected to be nominated by President Trump as the next chairman of the FCC, according to a report on Friday.

Pai would succeed Tom Wheeler in the top post, according to Politico. Trump’s spokesman confirmed that Pai met with Trump earlier this week.

A spokesman for Pai and for Trump’s transition team did not immediate return a request for comment.

The choice of Pai would signal a dramatic change from his predecessor, as his approach has been far less regulation than the Democrats who have, until this month, made up a majority. Pai opposed the FCC’s adoption of net neutrality and privacy rules. He was first confirmed in 2012, and is the senior Republican on the commission.

Pai’s nomination would not be a surprise, as he has been floated as a next possible chairman even before Trump’s election. His selection could signal that the incoming administration would support a move to repeal the net neutrality rules, which are under court challenge. Trump has said that he opposes the rules.

“I’m hopeful that beginning next year, our general regulatory approach will be a more sober one that is guided by evidence, sound economic analysis, and a good dose of humility,” Pai said in a speech to the Free State Foundation in December. He had said that he believes that the FCC’s approach to net neutrality — in which it classified broadband service like a utility — “are numbered.”

If Pai is nominated, Trump will have two vacancies to fill. Republicans now enjoy a 2-1 majority on the commission.

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