Senate Reconfirms FCC Chairman Pai Despite Growing Public Opposition

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Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — The Senate reconfirmed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday in a 52–41 floor vote that was preceded by widespread and vocal opposition to Pai and his actions on Net Neutrality, affordable broadband access, prison phone rates and media consolidation.

Chairman Pai has served at the FCC since 2012, first as a commissioner and then as chairman since President Trump appointed him earlier this year. Forty-five senators voted against Pai’s reconfirmation today, the highest level of opposition to an FCC nominee in at least 25 years.

The previous six FCC chairmen had been confirmed in unanimous votes. Pai’s growing unpopularity on Capitol Hill is reflected in recent public polling that shows overwhelming and bipartisan opposition to his plan to dismantle the Net Neutrality protections the Obama FCC adopted in 2015.

A June 2017 public-opinion poll revealed that 80 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans favor preserving the same Net Neutrality safeguards Pai is pushing to eliminate. On Monday, Free Press Action Fund and its allies submitted to Congress more than 60,000 signatures on a petition urging senators to “stand up for what’s right and fire FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.”

Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“The only people celebrating today’s vote are top executives at the phone and cable companies Ajit Pai so eagerly serves. Usually nominations to agencies like the FCC sail through without a dissenting vote. But based on the last five years he spent at the agency — and his past eight months as chairman — it’s clear that Pai is wholly unfit for the job. That’s why he ranks as one of Donald Trump’s most unpopular nominees, a dubious distinction in an administration that has sky-high public-disapproval ratings. We thank all the senators who today tried to stop Pai from being reconfirmed.

“Pai has worked to undo rules that protect internet users, communities of color and low-income families and is instead pushing policies that benefit deep-pocketed companies like his former employer Verizon. Unfortunately, he now has another term to do more real and lasting damage. If  Pai kills Net Neutrality, super-sizes Sinclair, penalizes the families of the incarcerated, and limits Lifeline — and those are just some of the plans we know about — he’ll go down in history as the worst FCC chairman ever. And the way senators voted today won’t be forgotten.”

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