President Donald Trump has made another big appointment: He’s picked Ajit Pai to head up the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
This could have a big impact on net neutrality and hints at where Trump stands on key internet issues, so here’s everything you need to know.
What does the FCC do?
Despite having a slightly dull name, it is in fact a very important body. It plays a huge role in directing how the government regulates the media and the internet.
Until Trump’s inauguration, the FCC was helmed by Tom Wheeler, who has now been succeeded by Pai.
Who is Ajit Pai?
Pai is a Republican, and has worked at the FCC as a commissioner since 2012. This means that he can be appointed to the role immediately, without having to be approved by congress.
Before joining the FCC, Pai worked as a lawyer at Verizon and also at the Justice Department.
What can we expect from Pai’s time in office?
Considering Pai’s track record, we can anticipate a strongly conservative approach to government regulation.
Reforms he has opposed during his time at the FCC include the 2015 net neutrality regulations and broadband privacy protections.
At a gala luncheon in December last year, he said: “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation.” As such, we can probably expect Pai to reverse a lot of the reforms that Wheeler passed when he was in office – and we wouldn’t be surprised if his eyes were firmly set on net neutrality.
What exactly is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the idea that all data on the internet is treated exactly the same, regardless of what it is – meaning that any and all content should be accessible on a free and open internet.
Those who wish to remove net neutrality support the idea of so-called internet “fast lanes”, where businesses and websites can pay to have their content made available more quickly than others. Critics of this idea say that it creates an unfair system that keeps the biggest, richest businesses at the top of the food chain and blunts competition from start-ups and disruptors who can’t afford to make it to a fast lane.
When the FCC moved in favour of net neutrality, Pai was very vocal about his objections – at the end of a 67-page document he wrote: “I am optimistic that we will look back on today’s vote as an aberration, a temporary deviation from the bipartisan path that has served us so well.”
How has Pai’s appointment been received?
With mixed feelings. Whilst some are happy that Pai will be taking the helm…
Others are worried about what this means for freedom on the internet.
And indeed what wider-reaching impacts his appointment will have – repealing net neutrality also affects the economy and jobs, as some sites and servers are favoured over others.
What will happen next?
It is likely that Pai will repeal the bills he has objected to as quickly as he can, but it is likely that he will meet resistance from those who support net neutrality.
What we do know is that Pai’s appointment means that there will be a lot of changes in the way the US regulates the Internet, showing us more clearly where Trump stands.