Pai would succeed Tom Wheeler in the top post. Trump’s spokesman confirmed that Pai met with Trump earlier this week, and Politico first reported on his pending nomination.
A spokesman for Pai and for Trump’s transition team did not immediate return a request for comment. But Pai’s Republican colleague on the commission, Michael O’Rielly, issued congratulations on Twitter.
“Congratulations Chairman Pai,” Wheeler tweeted out after news of the nomination.
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 elevation to the post 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.”
With Pai’s pick, Trump will still have two vacancies to fill. Republicans now enjoy a 2-1 majority on the commission.
“Ajit Pai brings with him a deep and broad intellectual understanding of the issues facing the FCC,” former Commissioner Robert McDowell, now a partner at the law firm Cooley. “He will be among the most experienced and substantive FCC chairs in the agency’s history. He has a clear and unambiguous governing philosophy. He will work to implement public policy according to his principles as soon as he can.”
Update: Gordon Smith, the president of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, said in a statement: “Without qualification, NAB supports President Trump’s selection of Ajit Pai to the position of FCC chairman. Ajit Pai is a known quantity who brings integrity, good humor and a fierce intellect to the Commission. We look forward to working with him and his colleagues on a pro-growth FCC agenda that benefits tens of millions of Americans who rely on free broadcast radio and TV for the most popular content, credible news, and lifeline local emergency alerts.”.