It’s been a much-discussed topic since it became clear that Joe Biden would be the next President of the United States: Would there be two openings at the FCC, as Republican Commissioner Mike O’Rielly‘s exit was all but sealed by the Trump Administration prior to his defeat in the 2020 elections?
The answer is now a confirmed affirmative. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that he intends to leave the Commission on January 20, 2021.
In a prepared statement released Monday morning (11/30), Pai said, “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. 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 also said he “deeply appreciates” the chance to have worked alongside the FCC’s talented staff. “They are the agency’s best assets, and they have performed heroically, especially during the pandemic. It’s also been an honor to work with my fellow Commissioners to execute a strong and broad agenda. Together, we’ve delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety. And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices. As a result, our nation’s communications networks are now faster, stronger, and more widely deployed than ever before.”
Pai continued, “I am proud of how productive this Commission has been, from commencing five spectrum auctions and two rural broadband reverse auctions in four years, to opening 1,245 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for unlicensed use, to adopting more than 25 orders through our Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, to aggressively protecting our communications networks from national security threats at home and abroad, to designating 988 as the three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and much, much more. I’m also proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people. In particular, for the first time ever, we’ve made public drafts of the proposals and orders slated for a vote three weeks before the agency’s monthly meetings, making this the most transparent FCC in history.”
He concluded by thanking his family for all they have done to enable Pai to serve at the agency. “The public service of one generally results from the private sacrifice of many, and I’m grateful for their love and support.”
Pai’s announcement drew widespread responses from those in support of his efforts while Chairman, and those who largely oppose many of his major initiatives — including the removal of Title II classification for broadband, ending “net neutrality” that Republicans say was improperly enacted during the Wheeler Commission.
NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith saluted Pai, calling him “a champion of free and local broadcasting” since he joined the FCC.
Smith said, “His fair, thoughtful approach to regulation led to many common-sense reforms that were long overdue. Most notably, Chairman Pai modernized the Commission’s media ownership rules, authorized and promoted the transition to the Next Gen TV transmission standard, helped revitalize the AM radio band and cleared out some significant regulatory underbrush that was no longer in the public interest.”
Apart from his policy moves, Smith added that Pai “also demonstrated great leadership, creativity, a sense of humor and always had an open door. America’s broadcasters thank Chairman Pai for his public service to the benefit of the millions of viewers and listeners who tune in to their local radio and TV stations every day.”
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