The chairman announced his decision to leave his post before the end of his term in a statement, saying it has "been the honor of a lifetime" to serve in that role. "To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege," Pai wrote. "As I often say: only in America."
In his statement, Pai listed what he believes are some of the agency's signature accomplishments during his tenure, including "closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety."
Pai has been a controversial figure in tech circles for his decision to roll back net neutrality protections and his crackdown on subsidies to get low-income people connected to the internet. His departure comes at a time when students across the country are being left out of remote learning due to a lack of devices or internet connection or both.
While it's not unusual for agency heads to step down after a new president assumes office, Pai's five-year term wasn't set to end until July 2021.
Read more about the likely candidates to take his place under President-elect Biden's administration.