Sunday, 07 March 2021

Biden selects Jessica Rosenworcel to replace Ajit Pai as FCC chair

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Friday 22 January 21

The new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairperson is a notable supporter of net neutrality and Open RAN

Yesterday, newly inaugurated President Biden announced that he had selected Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as the interim chair of the FCC. Rosenworcel’s appointment will need to be confirmed by the Senate following a hearing.  Rosenworcel first became a FCC commissioner under the Obama administration and was later reappointed by Donald Trump, serving from 2012 to the present…

Yesterday, newly inaugurated President Biden announced that he had selected Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as the interim chair of the FCC. Rosenworcel’s appointment will need to be confirmed by the Senate following a hearing. 

Rosenworcel first became a FCC commissioner under the Obama administration and was later reappointed by Donald Trump, serving from 2012 to the present. Now, she will take over as chairperson from exiting chairperson, the Republican Ajit Pai, who has served in the role since 2017.

During her time as an FCC commissioner, Rosenworcel has been a staunch advocate for net neutrality, something which Pai fiercely opposed. Under the Obama government, ISPs were reclassified by the FCC as common carriers, giving the FCC more authority over them and forcing them to treat all internet traffic equally. Pai, who was an FCC commissioner at the time, opposed these measures, arguing that increased regulation would hamper investment; he swiftly repealed this policy as soon as he became chair.

Now, with Rosenworcel at the helm, net neutrality laws could once again return to the US, as well as broadband subsidies for those lacking connectivity. In the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has starkly exposed the levels of internet inequality in the US, something which has long been a bugbear for Rosenworcel, especially when it comes to its impact on education. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Rosenworcel pushed for the FCC to provide schools with Wi-Fi hotspots to loan out to students without reliable internet, helping to tackle what she called the ‘homework’ gap.

“For many years, Jessica has been a passionate advocate for bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans — particularly our children. Her designation comes at a critical juncture for the Commission, as Covid-19 has made bold action to end internet inequality more vital than ever,” noted fellow democrat commissioner Geoffrey Starks, whom many thought could beat Rosenworcel for the appointment.

Rosenworcel is also a notable supporter of open RAN, saying in a speech in September last year that “open RAN has extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”

“That combination is something to seize,” she noted. “Especially right now in the early days of 5G wireless deployment.”

For now, Rosenworcel will potentially struggle to push through significant policy changes until President Biden’s third Democrat commissioner is confirmed by the Senate. However, this upcoming appointment will given the Democrats a three-to-two majority in the FCC, meaning significant policy change could be on the horizon.

 

Also in the news:
What are UK operators doing to support their customers during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Is the O2–Virgin Media merger bad for customers? CMA investigates
Cellnex and Deutsche Telekom to merge Dutch towers

 

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