This Is Ajit Pai, Nemesis of Net Neutrality

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The competition is stiff, but Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai may be the most reviled man on the internet. He is despised as both a bumbling rube, trying too hard to prove he gets it, and a cunning villain, out to destroy digital freedom. The anger emanates from his move, shortly after being appointed by President Donald Trump, to repeal Obama-era net ­neutrality regulations. He called his policy the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, an Orwellian touch in the view of his critics, who see ­it as a mortal threat.

People who know Pai swear that his nerdy persona is authentic. And even his adversaries will admit that he’s an anomaly in the Trump administration: a skillful practitioner of the Washington game. Pai has spent his entire professional life in the capital, acquiring influential patrons (Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Attorney General Jeff Sessions) and insider expertise. Behind Pai’s brainy, technocratic mask, though, is an alter ego: ruthless conservative ideologue. In this sense, he is emblematic of Trump’s Washington, where all debates—even the bone-dry bureaucratic ones—have become so heated that they are fought like matters of life and death. Pai’s competence has allowed him to make quick work of undoing the Obama administration’s legacy at the FCC. But his polarizing politics assure that the battle over internet regulation will keep raging.

As Harold Feld, an ardent critic who works for the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, laments, “Why was my area of policy the one that got the guy who actually knows what he’s doing?”


This Is Ajit Pai, Nemesis of Net Neutrality