Skip to main content

Ajit Pai to Depart FCC

Ajit Pai
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that he will be leaving the FCC on Jan. 20, 2021, when President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn into office and his administration takes over.

Pai, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2012 to serve on the commission, has been FCC Chairman since 2017, appointed to that position by President Trump.

Pai issued a statement on his upcoming departure:

“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.

“I also deeply appreciate 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. 

“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.

“Last but not least, I want to thank my family for all they have done to enable me 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 is not the only current member of FCC leadership that will soon depart. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly had his renomination rescinded by President Trump after reportedly disagreeing with him about reviews to Sec. 230 involving social media companies; he is expected to leave either by Jan. 20 or when a replacement is appointed. 

Trump’s nominee to replace O’Rielly, Nathan Simington, is currently going through the confirmation hearing process, but has had opposition due to his possible involvement in drafting a petition regarding Sec. 230.

As far as who may replace Pai as chairman in the Biden administration, reports say that current Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is a leading candidate. Mignon Clyburn, a former FCC commissioner and temporary FCC chairwoman, has also been mentioned in reports and is part of Biden’s transition team for the commission. 

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith released a statement on Pai's upcoming departure, calling him a champion of free and local broadcasting. Smith also praised Pai for his work in modernizing outdated broadcast regulations, including his efforts to update media ownership rules, the authorization and promotion of NextGen TV and more.