Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who led the agency's repeal of the net neutrality rules, said Monday he will step down on January 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years,” Pai stated. “It’s also been an honor to work with my fellow Commissioners to execute a strong and broad agenda.”
Pai, a Republican, was appointed by President Obama in 2012 and named chairman by President Trump in 2017.
When Pai took over leadership of the FCC, he vowed to “fire up the weed whacker” to regulations.
One of his first acts was to close an investigation into “zero-ratings” practices by AT&T and Verizon, which excluded their own video streams from customers' data caps.
Pai also supported approval of T-Mobile's $26 billion merger with Sprint, claiming the deal would result in faster deployment of 5G networks. The agency voted 3-2 in favor of the merger, which left the country with only three major mobile carriers.
Despite his stated de-regulatory approach, earlier this year Pai said the FCC would consider issuing rules that could affect how web publishers treat content posted by users.
Pai didn't actually propose any rules, and it now seems unlikely that the agency will be able to move forward with an attempt to craft social media regulations before he departs.
Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly is also expected to leave the agency by the end of this year.
If the Senate confirms nominee Nathan Simington before the end of the term, Biden will start his presidency with the FCC evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
The Senate Commerce Committee is slated to vote Wednesday on Simington's nomination The advocacy group Fight for the Future is urging lawmakers to reject him.
“If the Senate confirms him, its sole purpose will be to throw sand in the gears, tying up the new FCC for months at a time when the public can’t afford the agency to be kneecapped,” the organization's deputy director Evan Greer stated.