WASHINGTON, D.C. — Barring the unexpected, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai entered the day all but assured of a second term at the FCC, ensuring he will remain the leader through the end of June 2021.
The U.S. Senate made it official Monday afternoon (10/2), confirming him for a second term that retroactively began July 1, 2016, in a 52-41 vote.
In a statement released by Pai following the Senate vote, he said, “I am deeply grateful to the U.S. Senate for confirming my nomination to serve a second term at the FCC, and to President Trump for submitting that nomination to the Senate.”
He added that, since January 2017, the Commission has focused on bridging the digital divide, promoting innovation, protecting consumers and public safety, and making the FCC more open and transparent.
“With today’s vote, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to advance these critical priorities in the time to come,” Pai noted.
The Senate’s confirmation of Pai was met with immediate applause from the NAB.
In congratulating Pai, NAB President/CEO and former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith said, “Chairman Pai understands broadcasting’s unique role as an indispensable communications medium, and we appreciate his effort to ease outdated regulatory burdens on local radio and TV. We share his vision for a vibrant communications future that allows local broadcast innovation and robust competition to largely unregulated broadband and pay programming providers.”
Similarly positive sentiments came from the lower body of Congress, as Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) looked forward to “his continued, steady leadership at the commission.” They added, “Working together, we will continue to find solutions to ensure an innovative, competitive media and communications marketplace and to expand broadband across America.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation which voted August 2 to advance Pai’s nomination to the full Senate, said of Pai ahead of his confirmation, “In recent weeks, he has worked tirelessly to help ensure communications services are restored to the communities affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. In just nine months since becoming Chairman, Pai has also made much-needed reforms to improve transparency at the FCC and to improve the agency’s processes.”
Thune is also particularly heartened by Pai’s efforts to treat his fellow commissioners fairly by instituting the process of sharing documents with other commissioners before discussing them publicly. Additionally, under Pai’s leadership, the public is now able to view the text of all agenda items in advance of Commission meetings, a point made by Thune in his Senate-floor endorsement of Pai made before today’s vote.
Of those opposed to Pai, Sen. Maria Cantwell (R-Wash.) has emerged as perhaps one of the most vocal.
Reiterating her earlier opposition voiced on the Senate floor, Cantwell said on Monday afternoon that Pai does not deserve a second term as FCC Chairman squarely for his belief that Title II classification for Net Neutrality is incorrect.
“I’m very worried if the internet’s arteries are artificially slowed down or clogged our critical information could arrive too late to help protect consumers,” she said. “Why would you nominate someone who has already pledged to roll back the rules of an open internet that basically will create throttling and slowing down of content that will hurt the applications of these businesses?”