President-elect Donald Trump met with the Federal Communications Commission’s Ajit Pai over the long weekend, fueling speculation that Trump is preparing to tap the senior FCC Republican commissioner for interim or permanent chairman.
Pai met with Trump Jan. 16, Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, said on a Jan. 17 call with reporters. Pai is the heavy favorite in telecommunication circles to be named acting FCC chairman.
Pai is also widely seen as a likely candidate for permanent chairman, though the Trump team has been tight-lipped about its plans for the position. Other Republicans that have been floated as possible candidates to head the FCC include Indiana Sen. Brandt Hershman, an ally of Vice President-elect Mike Pence and advocate of telecom deregulation, and Michael O’Rielly, who is the other Republican currently serving as a commissioner alongside Pai.
Details of what Pai and Trump discussed have not been released. Pai has, of late, previewed his vision of the FCC, which is premised on rolling back regulations the GOP deems unnecessary and creating incentives for broadband providers to expand into underserved areas. On the day of his meeting with Trump, Pai tweeted several times about his ideas for expanding broadband, including giving tax breaks to companies that build out ultra-high-speed networks and pre-empting state and local legal barriers to deploying broadband networks.
Trump also met that same day with Joshua Wright, a former Republican commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission and a member of Trump’s FTC transition team. Wright, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, has advocated for light FTC and FCC regulations and has frequently criticized the FCC for what he views as overextending its authority both before and after he left the FTC in August 2015.
In November, Wright wrote an op-ed piece arguing that regulators should be more permissive of mergers like AT&T Inc.’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Inc.
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