President Biden selects Jessica Rosenworcel to head up FCC as acting chairwoman

Net neutrality, internet-for-students advocate awaits Senate confirmation


President Joe Biden has made Democrat FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel acting chairwoman of America's communications regulator.

Rosenworcel needs the Senate's approval before she can take on the role on a permanent basis. Even then the FCC leadership will still be split with two Democrat commissioners and two Republicans until Biden can install a third Democrat, again via the Dem-controlled Senate, to push through changes. Rosenworcel is the second woman to hold the title of acting FCC chairwoman, Mignon Clyburn being the first.

A former Washington DC and Senate Commerce Committee lawyer, Rosenworcel has been an FCC commissioner pretty much since her installation by President Obama in 2012. Rosenworcel, 49, has more than two decades of experience in communications policy and law, and was seen as a natural pick for Biden.

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She has advocated for, among other measures, net neutrality protections and internet access for all students. Indeed, a Democrat-run FCC is expected to restore network neutrality rules scrapped by the previous Republican administration, and improve America's connectivity with subsidies amid a coronavirus pandemic in which schools are closed and people are urged to work from home where possible.

“I am honored to be designated as the Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden," she said in a statement on Thursday.

"I thank the President for the opportunity to lead an agency with such a vital mission and talented staff. It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age.”

Let's take a quick spin through some of Rosenworcel's greatest hits, as reported by your humble vultures:

  • She coined the phrase "the homework gap" to highlight the 12 million US school-aged children without decent internet access to study at home.
  • She said it was a mistake for the previous administration to kill off net neutrality rules in America. “I support net neutrality,” she said in October. “I believe the FCC got it wrong when three years ago it gave the green light to our nation’s broadband providers to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content.”
  • She called for a review of the law that gives "the president power to shut down communications without clear judicial or legislative review."
  • She pointed out the Sprint-T-Mobile-US merger would mean “three companies will control 99 percent of the wireless market. By any metric, this transaction will raise prices, lower quality, and slow innovation, just as we start to deploy the next-generation of wireless technology."
  • She was among those pressuring the FCC to do something about the underhand sale of people's cellphone location records. "The FCC has been totally silent about reports that show for a few hundred dollars shady middlemen can sell your location within a few hundred meters using wireless carrier data," she noted. "This is unacceptable. The public deserves to know just what is going on."
  • She railed against robo-calls, describing them as a "nightmare" and even received them during an FCC meeting to discuss the scourge. "Both my phones up here got a robocall since the presentation started," she told her fellow commissioners. "If you think we’re drowning in robocalls now, get ready."
  • She drew attention to the favoritism seemingly shown by the FCC to US broadcasting giant Sinclair. "I think it has reached a point where all [the FCC's] media policy decisions seem to be custom built for this one company, and I think it merits investigation," she told a congressional hearing.

The appointment follows FCC boss Ajit Pai's departure this week as Biden was inaugurated as the United States' 46th president. ®


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