After serving for several months as acting Chairman, Ajit Pai was officially confirmed, by Senate vote on October 2nd, as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
The 52-41 vote turned into a contest over Pai’s proposed return of ISPs to Title I carrier status, versus Democrats’ desire to perpetuate Obama-era net neutrality rules which regulate them under more stringent Title II carrier rules. Non-voting Republicans included Cochran (MS), Heller (NV), McCain (AZ), and Toomey (PA). Democrats voting in favor of Pai were Manchin (WV), McCaskill (MO), Peters (MI), and Tester (MT).
Republican Senator Roger Wicker (MS) summed up the Republican position, stating that Pai is “working to establish the light-touch regulatory framework that allowed the internet to become the marvel of the modern age, keeping it free and open for consumers, innovators and providers.” Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV) called Pai an “important partner in my quest to bring rural America in much of my state online.”
Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, conversely, warned that Pai “will do an enormous amount of damage to one of the foundational principles of the internet – net neutrality.” Democrats have also expressed concern that Pai will change regulations that limit the number of TV stations that can be owned by a single company.
Chairman Pai seems very amenable to making additional high cost broadband funding available to small, rural LECs, and we offer him our sincere congratulations on his confirmation. We are also confident that he can navigate the very troubled political waters that swirl in America today.