FCC chairman Ajit Pai has announced that he’s leaving the commission as of January 20th, 2021, the same day that President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in. It’s not a major surprise, as such appointees often resign as a new administration takes over; former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler left his position when the Trump administration took over back in 2017.
Of course, Pai will always be remembered for his infamous decision to strip net neutrality protections that were put in place under the Obama presidency. The FCC voted along party lines in late 2017 to remove the “Title II” classification for broadband service, which then allowed internet service providers to practice blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization as long as they disclose those practices.
It’s not clear yet who will take over at the FCC, but it’s entirely possible that a new chairperson under the Biden administration will work to bring back net neutrality protections. Whether or not those come from once again classifying broadband under Title II remains to be seen.
“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 said in a statement.
“I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to lead the agency in 2017, to President Obama for appointing me as a Commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for twice confirming me. To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.”
Pai has been on the FCC since 2012; he was nominated by President Obama at the recommendation of Mitch McConnell and was appointed as FCC chair by President Trump in January of 2017 for a five-year term.
While he ends up serving less than that term, it’s standard practice for FCC commissioners to serve about four years. Both President Obama and President George W. Bush had two different FCC commissioners serve during their two terms in the White House.