Biden nominates Rosenworcel for FCC chairmanship


Federal Communication Commission Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel testifies before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 05, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

President Joe Biden announced his nominees to the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, ending the historically long wait.

In a press release, the White House said Biden would nominate incumbent chair Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, to take on the role of permanent chair and nominate her for another term on the commission. He also plans to nominate former FCC official Gigi Sohn, another Democrat, to fill the agency’s fifth commissioner seat. He is also expected to appoint Alan Davidson as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Rosenworcel, who can take up her new role immediately as she already sits on the Commission, will become the agency’s first female permanent chair. It has yet to be confirmed by the Senate for a new term of office. Son would become the first open LGBTIQ + officer when confirmed.

Many lawmakers and advocacy groups had grown impatient because Biden failed to nominate officials to the FCC after naming Rosenworcel as vice chairman shortly after his inauguration. Without a permanent chairman and a 2-2 blockade from Republican to Democratic commissioners, the agency could only move forward with bipartisan action rather than bold agenda items like net neutrality. Democats will have a 3-2 majority if both Rosenworcel and Son are confirmed.

A group of 25 senators wrote to Biden last month urging him to appoint Rosenworcel as permanent chair.

“We represent 17 states and a wide range of political and political views, but we have one thing in common, the conviction that at this important time there is no better qualified or more competent person to lead the FCC than incumbent Chairman Rosenworcel”, Legislators wrote. “What is important is that we believe that incumbent chairwoman Rosenworcel will have few obstacles to her confirmation.”

This is especially important as Rosenworcel still risks leaving the commission at the end of the year unless the Senate manages to reconfirm her for a new five-year term before her final term ends in 2020. Legislators have limited time to host confirmation procedures before the end of the year, especially as they continue to focus on getting Biden’s infrastructure package passed.

If Rosenworcel left the commission before any of the candidates can be confirmed, the Republicans would hold a 2-1 majority on the commission until the Senate moves forward.

Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee that will review Biden’s latest candidate list, said in a statement that she looked forward to “looking into these nominations quickly before the end of the year.” That would give the Democrats a chance to fend off a Republican majority in the commission.

Son, who was a top adviser to former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, is a favorite among progressive groups. Son is a strong supporter of net neutrality measures as he worked for Wheeler when he pushed through the 2015 rules during the Obama administration. These rules were withdrawn under the Trump administration.

Most recently, Sohn was a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.

Davidson, the NTIA candidate, most recently worked for Mozilla, a major supporter of the net neutrality rules. Prior to that, he opened Google’s Public Policy Office in Washington and headed government relations in America until 2012.

Rosenworcel has made closing the so-called homework gap a characteristic part of their platform and emphasized the importance of connecting more households to the Internet.

Biden previously installed progressive favorites in the Federal Trade Commission and the White House with his election of Lina Khan to chair the FTC and Tim Wu to the National Economic Council. Both criticize the big tech companies and the ability of the prevailing antitrust law to adequately account for their power.

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