Ajit Pai will leave his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, the agency said today.

Why it matters: Pai’s Inauguration Day departure is in keeping with agency tradition, and could set up the Biden administration with a 2-1 Democratic majority at the FCC if the Senate fails to confirm another Trump nominee during the lame-duck period.

The big picture: Pai, a Republican tapped by President Trump to be chairman after serving as a commissioner, led a deregulatory charge in the telecom sector.

  • Pai repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules and sought to loosen restrictions on broadcast station group ownership.
  • He also oversaw consolidation in the wireless market through approval of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, but blocked conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group from buying Tribune media.

What they’re saying: Pai has championed extending broadband access to rural America through subsidies to help providers build out their networks, as well as ensuring that wireless companies have access to airwaves for 5G services.

  • “Together, 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 in a statement.  “And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices.”
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