In one of his earliest official acts, President Trump appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai as the long-term Chairman of the FCC. While many thought Commissioner Pai was the most likely candidate to be named interim Chairman of the Commission, President Trump skipped the interim step and immediately appointed Chairman Pai on a long-term basis. This decision is significant because it eliminates the need for the Senate to confirm Chairman Pai. While the appointment of a new FCC Commissioner requires Senate confirmation, the president has the authority to name the chairman from existing FCC Commissioners with no further action required. For the time being, Chairman Pai will head a three-member, Republican majority panel consisting of fellow Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and Democrat Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. There are currently two vacant seats on the five-member Commission.
While it is difficult to predict the exact course in which Chairman Pai will lead the Commission, one thing is certain: under his leadership, the FCC will be vastly different than under previous Chairman Tom Wheeler.
As a Commissioner during the Obama administration since 2012, Chairman Pai strongly dissented to most of the significant rulemaking proceedings championed by former Chairman Wheeler. Notably, Chairman Pai was adamantly opposed to adoption of the 2015 “Open Internet” Order, as well as the subsequent Broadband Privacy Order of 2016.