President Donald Trump has picked a fierce critic of the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules to be chief regulator of the nation's airwaves and internet connections, the AP reports. In a statement Monday, Ajit Pai said he was grateful to the president for choosing him as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Pai had been one of the two Republican commissioners on a five-member panel that regulates the country's communications infrastructure, including TV, phone, and internet service. There are currently just three members on the panel. The Republicans' new majority at the FCC, along with their control of Congress and the White House, is expected to help them roll back policies applauded by consumer advocates that upset many phone and cable industry groups, including net neutrality rules that bar internet service providers from favoring some websites and apps over others.
Pai has long maintained that the FCC under former Chairman Thomas Wheeler had overstepped its bounds, suggesting that he would steer the agency in a direction more favorable to big phone and cable companies. In a December speech, he expressed confidence that the 2015 net neutrality rules would be undone and said the FCC needed to take a "weed whacker" to what he considered unnecessary regulations that hold back investment and innovation. Consumer advocates have been concerned that a deregulation-minded FCC could potentially allow more huge mergers, overturn new protections for internet users, and lead to higher costs for media and technology companies that rely on the internet to reach consumers.