President Joe Biden has tapped Jessica Rosenworcel to chair the Federal Communications Commission, offering her the chance to assume the role she is currently filling on an acting basis.
Rosenworcel, who would be the first woman to serve as chair, has been a commissioner since 2012 and was appointed by former President Barack Obama. The FCC chair designation does not require Senate confirmation but since Rosenworcel's five-year term is set to expire in early January she must be cofirmed again to serve another term.
The position would give her an outsized role over the nation's telecommunications policy and oversight on issues ranging from cable company mergers to rural broadband expansion.
When it comes to rural broadband, she has previously focused on fixing the broadband coverage maps before doling out money. There were several times where Rosenworcel didn’t hold back criticizing former FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai for rolling out the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund before broadband coverage maps accurately showed where high-speed internet was and was not. But in February 2021 Jean Kiddoo, chair of FCC's Broadband Data Task Force, guessed it would likely be into the next year to get the maps updated.
The FCC adopted the RDOF program in January 2020, which awards money to providers who prove internet service will be provided to underserved areas.
In addition to serving as a commissioner, Rosenworcel has also worked for the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau in the early 2000s before working for FCC Commissioner Michael Copps from 2003 to 2007. Between 2007 and 2012, Rosenworcel served as senior communications counsel for the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
"It is an honor to work with my colleagues on the Commission and the agency’s talented staff to ensure that no matter who you are or where you live, everyone has the connections they need to live, work, and learn in the digital age,” Rosenworcel said in a statement.
NTCA — The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield congratulated Rosenworcel on her nomination.
“We have long appreciated her focus on closing the digital divide, and, especially during the pandemic, to giving families and students greater ability to get and stay connected,” Bloomfield said in a statement.
Along with Rosenworcel’s selection, Biden also announced a plan to nominate Gigi Sohn as the fifth commissioner to the FCC. If confirmed by the Senate, Sohn — currently a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology — would replace former FCC Commissioner Mike O’Reilly, whose renomination was pulled by former President Donald Trump in August 2020.
Sohn has worked for over three decades “to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband Internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open, and protective of user privacy,” the White House said in a release.
She served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013 to 2016 and also founded the communications and technology advocacy organization Public Knowledge, where she worked from 2001 to 2013.
The Commission has been without a total of five commissioners since August 2020. It typically has five commissioners with three nominated from the party in control of the White House who serve five-year terms.
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