Nirali Patel named Special Counsel to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Nirali Patel, an Indian-American staffer for Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr, has been named by FCC chairman Ajit Pai as his special counsel on January 18th. “I’m pleased that Nirali is joining my office as Special Counsel,” said Pai in a statement.  “She has a wide range of expertise and experience in communications law and policy issues and will be an asset to my team,” the Ajit Pai, the Indian American FCC chief added.

As a legal adviser to Carr, Patel advised on media, wireless, public safety, international, consumer protection and enforcement matters, the FCC said in a news release. Added Carr of the outgoing staffer, “She has been an invaluable member of the team, bringing a depth of knowledge and thoroughness to every issue she tackled.”

Prior to that, she served as a deputy chief in the Competition Policy Division of the Wireline Competition Bureau.  Before joining the FCC in January 2017, Patel was counsel in the technology, media and telecommunications practice of Hogan Lovells US LLP. Previously, she practiced communications law at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Sidley Austin LLP. Patel graduated summa cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law and received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ajit Pai has played a crucial role in an administration whose policies stand squarely in the crosshairs of the nation’s emotions. The revoking of the Net Neutrality policy by Pai has been decried by detractors as a corporate shill strategically positioned in the nation’s capital. Charging him with “ruining the internet,” protesters have threatened Pai, his wife and children, covered his house with disparaging signs and taken to the internet with accusations and calls for his removal. Protesters have even established AjitVPai.com, a website that encourages visitors to contact the FCC about Pai’s actions. The site also explains how, without net neutrality, ISPs such as AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon can block or dramatically slow users’ access to some sites.

The expected wave of litigation against the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net-neutrality rules has begun. A group of attorneys general for 21 states and the District of Columbia sued Jan. 16 to block the rules. So did Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, public-interest group Free Press and New America’s Open Technology Institute. Others may file suit as well, and a major tech-industry lobbying group has said it will support litigation.

The rules barred companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from interfering with internet traffic and favoring their own sites and apps. FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s push to undo them inspired both street and online protests in defense of the Obama-era rules. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the suit, said that the end of the net neutrality rules would hurt consumers and businesses.

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