Ajit Pai, left, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, at a 2014 meeting with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and then-Chairman Tom Wheeler. (KAREN BLEIER / AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — President Trump on Monday designated Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission and an outspoken opponent of net neutrality rules, to be the agency’s newest chairman.

The 44-year-old would replace Tom Wheeler, a Democrat who stepped down from the post on Friday. Wheeler’s term had not expired, but Trump is afforded the right to designate a new chairman as Republicans gain the FCC majority.

“I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans,” Pai said.

Pai, a telecommunications lawyer, has served on the FCC since 2012, and is a free-market advocate who has been sharply critical of new regulations adopted by Democrats in recent years. He moves into the chairman’s office amid reports that a Trump White House is seeking to scale back the agency’s authority.

“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said in a speech last month looking ahead to Republican control of the FCC.

The son of Indian immigrants, Pai was associate general counsel of Verizon Communications Inc. from 2001-03, before he began working as a staffer in the U.S. Senate. He’d eventually move on to the Justice Department, and ultimately, the FCC.

Pai is known for sprinkling his speeches with pop-culture references and is extremely active on social media. During the net neutrality debate, he tweeted a photo of himself with the 332-page proposal and lamented that FCC rules didn’t allow him to make it public. Pai has pushed for FCC proposals to be released before commissioners vote on them.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a Georgetown University law professor and longtime consumer advocate, said Pai would be a “formidable opponent” for public interest groups.

“He is not only an outspoken detractor from many of the important advances we obtained under Chairman Wheeler, but he is also extremely smart and knowledgeable,” Schwartzman said.

Removing the net neutrality regulations could take a while as the FCC probably would have to go through a formal rule-making process.

“We made a decision on the record. The court supported that decision rather convincingly,” Wheeler said in an interview this week. “I think it’s going to be difficult to just waltz in and say, ‘We’re going to overturn everything.’”

The five-member commission has two vacancies after the departures of Wheeler and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel.