The Senate on Monday voted 52-41 to approve a new five-year term for Republican Ajit Pai, who currently heads the Federal Communications Commission.
Pai's reconfirmation was opposed by many Senate Democrats who voiced concerns about his positions regarding broadband policy. Among other controversial moves, Pai recently moved forward with plans to gut the 2015 net neutrality rules by reclassifying broadband as an "information" service.
The Obama-era FCC reclassified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier regulations on broadband providers, including bans on blocking or throttling service and charging content companies higher fees for faster delivery. If broadband is now reclassified as an information service, the FCC may no longer have authority to enforce the other rules, including the bans on blocking or throttling service and paid fast lanes.
Pai said in a statement that he was "deeply grateful" to the Senate. "Since January, the Commission has focused on bridging the digital divide, promoting innovation, protecting consumers and public safety, and making the FCC more open and transparent," he stated.
Some business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, expressed support for Pai. But net neutrality advocates who had called for Pai's ouster expressed disappointment with the vote. "Based on the last five years he spent at the agency -- and his past eight months as chairman -- it’s clear that Pai is wholly unfit for the job," Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron stated late Monday.
The group also noted that the previous six FCC chairmen were confirmed unanimously. "Pai’s growing unpopularity on Capitol Hill is reflected in recent public polling that shows overwhelming and bipartisan opposition to his plan to dismantle the Net Neutrality protections the Obama FCC adopted in 2015," the group stated.