As expected, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) boss Ajit Pai has announced he’ll be stepping down on January 20 after a four-year leadership stint rife with controversy.
Historically, the party that controls the White House holds both a 3-2 majority and the top spot at the agency. Current Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is widely expected to at least temporarily take control of the agency after the Biden inauguration.
In a statement, Pai proclaimed he was “proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people.”
“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,” Pai said.
But Pai’s tenure was pockmarked with a long list of controversies, most notably being his unpopular attack on net neutrality. The repeal not only eliminated net neutrality rules, but left the agency without the authority to hold major telecom monopolies like AT&T and Comcast accountable during an historic public health crisis.
Pai’s FCC also actively blocked a law enforcement inquiry into the broadband industry’s use of fake and even dead people to support Trump policies, and spent much of his tenure rolling back decades-old media ownership rules designed to protect smaller businesses from the predatory behavior of major media conglomerates.
Pai’s tenure wasn’t entirely devoid of public benefit. Pai oversaw several important, high-profile wireless spectrum auctions, and also helped create a new 988 hotline for suicide prevention.
But Pai will long be remembered as the guy with the oversized coffee mug that ignored the public, happily-dismantled his own agency at the behest of AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast lobbyists, then danced with a pizzagater in celebration.