Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced yesterday that he will resign from the agency on Jan. 20, 2021, the day that President-elect Biden is sworn into office. The announcement frees the President-elect up to nominate a Democrat to replace Pai — giving the party a three-to-two majority atop the FCC — and name either the replacement or one of the two Democrats currently serving as a commissioner to be the agency’s next chairperson.
Pai’s resignation and the transfer of power at the FCC to Democrats could make things interesting for the accounts receivable management industry, especially at a time when the agency is working on a new rule amending the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It was back in 2015, when Democrats had the majority at the FCC, when it enacted its Declaratory Order that made several significant changes to the TCPA and led ACA International to sue the agency. ACA International was part of a coalition of groups that earlier this year asked the FCC to move a little faster with its rulemaking, especially as it applied to defining an automated telephone dialing system.
Pai’s five-year term as a commissioner at the FCC was due to expire in June 2021. He has made fighting the proliferation of illegal robocalls as one of his primary objectives during his stint as chairman.
As it currently stands, Democrats will have a two-to-one majority atop the FCC when the President-elect takes office in January. Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks are Democrats and Commissioner Brendan Carr is a Democrat. Nathan Simington, a Republican, has been nominated to replace outgoing Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, but has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.
Biden can choose either Rosenworcel or Starks or whomever he nominates to replace Pai to be the next chairperson of the FCC.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years,” Pai said in a statement.