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Trump names net neutrality foe Ajit Pai to head FCC

The FCC commissioner replaces open internet backer Tom Wheeler as chairman of the agency.

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FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has been tapped to be the commission's next chairman.

CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Net neutrality may be enjoying its final days after President Donald Trump's latest appointment.

The president on Monday named FCC commissioner Ajit Pai to head the agency, which in 2015 adopted rules to preserve net neutrality. Pai, who replaces outgoing Chairman Tom Wheeler, a staunch defender of net neutrality, has already expressed a desire to dismantle those rules.

"During the Trump Administration, we will shift from playing defense at the FCC to going on offense," he said during a public appearance at a luncheon last month (PDF). "We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation."

Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally, regardless of whether you're checking Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram or streaming movies from Netflix or Amazon. Even though most people agree with the basic premise of net neutrality, the FCC's rules have become a lightning rod for controversy because they placed broadband providers under the same strict regulations that govern telephone networks.

Pai, a telecom law expert who was appointed by President Barack Obama and has served the FCC for more than three years, doesn't need Senate confirmation as chairman, but his current term expires at the end of the year, at which time he will need to be reconfirmed to continue serving on the commission.

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