Trump-Appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Will Leave His Post in January

Named to his role in 2017, he oversaw the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint

Ajit Pai was first appointed to the FCC in 2012. Getty Images

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai announced today that he will step down on Jan. 20, 2021, the day of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Pai, who was appointed to the FCC as a commissioner in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, was elevated to chairman of the regulatory body in 2017 by President Donald Trump.

Over the last three years, Pai oversaw the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as a rollback of net neutrality rules established during the Obama administration in 2015, positioning himself as a champion of deregulation. Last year at an event held by the National Association of Broadcasters, Pai urged industry professionals to become more like digital media companies—assuring broadcasters that they wouldn’t have to beg the FCC for permission to do so.

An exception to Pai’s legacy of deregulation came more recently, when the Trump administration began to push for the FCC to oversee social media platforms after allegations of partisan censorship, though many of those plans are unlikely to manifest following the president’s failed re-election campaign. The plans have also been criticized by experts who say the president doesn’t have the power to implement the kind of rules he laid out in an executive order this spring.

“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,” Pai said.

He also highlighted specific projects during his tenure in today’s statement, including advancing rural broadband, designating a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and making early policy proposal drafts open to the public ahead of monthly agency meetings to increase transparency.

Pai is the first Asian-American chairman of the FCC, which he called a “particular privilege” in today’s statement. “As I often say: only in America,” Pai wrote.

@klundster Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.