Joe Biden has, after nine months, nominated Jessica Rosenworcel as chair of the Federal Communications Commission. While longtime Commissioner Rosenworcel filled in as the acting chair, we’ve been banging our heads against the desks wondering why Biden wouldn’t just pull the trigger. While Biden waited, the FCC has been powerless to do much; with a vacancy for the fifth commissioner seat, the FCC has been left with a 2-2 Democrat and Republican split. It could easily have tipped to a Republican majority, since Rosenworcel’s term is due to end in January 2022.
Biden has nominated Gigi Sohn, a co-founder of Public Knowledge — an organisation with net neutrality written into its core mission long before “net neutrality” was a popular issue — to fill the fifth commissioner seat.
Rosenworcel, the first-ever woman nominee for the job, is the natural pick for the Biden agenda. She’s championed net neutrality, spearheaded a fund for schools to purchase connected devices, pushed for emergency measures to get underserved students online from home (close the “Homework Gap”), and led a robocall crackdown effort.
Blessedly, she’s not for repealing Section 230, an idea Biden has toyed with.
Rosenworcel is a strong candidate to turn the ship around, after years of shouting into the void during former Chairman Ajit Pai’s term, which in many ways represented how much damage the Trump administration was able to accomplish in little time. (Check out his stand-up set riffing on his reputation for cozying up to monopolistic telecoms.) Rosenworcel criticised him for doing nothing about location tracking, repealing net neutrality rules, and making excuses to weasel out of sending WiFi hotspots for schools. She dissented when the FCC (to Pai’s delight) voted to approve the T-Mobile and Sprint merger, which has left America with only three major cell phone carriers. She added that the FCC “hid too much of the negotiations and this decision out of view from the public.”
The Senate needs to confirm them by the end of December. If approved, Rosenworcel, Sohn, and fellow Democrat Geoffrey Starks have their work cut out for them.