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Senate reconfirms Pai as FCC chair

Ajit Pai will serve another term on the FCC, where he's expected to oversee the undoing of Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Ajit Pai To Remain Head Of FCC

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will serve for another four years.  

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

As expected, Ajit Pai will stay on as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in spite of protests from pro-net-neutrality activists who pushed lawmakers to reject his reconfirmation.

The US Senate voted 52-41 Monday to give Pai another five-year term on the commission. The confirmation is retroactive to July 2016, giving him at least another four years as chairman. Nominated as a commissioner under former President Barack Obama, Pai was elevated to the role of chairman in January, following the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Democrats and consumer groups opposed Pai's renomination, arguing his plans to roll back Obama-era net neutrality regulations and his easing of media ownership rules hurt consumers. But with a Republican-controlled Senate, his reconfirmation was never in question.

The vote comes as the FCC considers a proposal to scale back net neutrality regulation meant to protect the internet from interference by broadband companies. Pai has said he supports the principles of an open and free internet but doesn't like the utility-style legal framework the rules were based on. Pai said reclassifying broadband under the Communications Act has discouraged broadband investment. He'd like to see "lighter touch" regulation restored.

But Pai's predecessor, Democrat Tom Wheeler, and other supporters of the current net neutrality rules say that without the legal framework in place, the rules will fall apart.

Democrats also took issue with Pai's review of the $3.9 billion merger between media giants Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media. They've suggested Pai has worked behind the scenes to ease the path for the merger. Pai has said the review has followed the proper protocol and his review has been fair and independent.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress say they're happy with Pai's performance so far. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Pai is a "breath of fresh air."

"I am deeply grateful to the US Senate for confirming my nomination to serve a second term at the FCC and to President Trump for submitting that nomination to the Senate," Pai said in a statement.

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