President Joe Biden yesterday nominated Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to lead the agency. The action makes her the first woman to chair the almost 100-year agency, according to the White House. Biden also nominated former FCC official Gigi Sohn to the open Democratic seat on the Commission and attorney Alan Davidson to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Rosenworcel said she was “deeply humbled” by the designation as FCC Chair. “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,” said Rosenworcel in a statement. She also congratulated Sohn and Davidson.
The nominations would give Democrats a majority on the five-person FCC panel for the first time during Biden’s presidency, ending a 2-2 partisan stalemate that has stymied much of the progressive agenda for the agency. But the clock is ticking to get Senate confirmations. Although Rosenworcel immediately becomes Chair, her term on the FCC lapsed in 2020, which means she must leave at the end of this year unless the Senate confirms her to a new five-year term. If Rosenworcel and Sohn are not confirmed, Republicans are poised to gain a 2-1 majority on the Commission come January.
The 50-year-old Rosenworcel campaigned hard for the job, with female members of Congress, five labor unions, 14 human rights groups and two dozen Senate Democrats lobbying Biden to nominate her, according to The New York Times. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was among 25 Democratic senators who signed an urgent letter to Biden last month endorsing Rosenworcel, Inside Towers reported. The lawmakers said that continued delay in filling the FCC vacancies could hold up the distribution of $65 billion in broadband funding allocated to the FCC and other agencies, and the continuing distribution of $27 billion in pandemic aid aimed at expanding access to the internet for struggling households.
One of the reasons for the delay in nominating Rosenworcel as chair was due to the endorsement of Commissioner Geoffrey Starks for the lead position by the Congressional Black Caucus, reported Politico. Its leading member, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), was instrumental in Biden’s election.
NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Association, congratulated Rosenworcel and Sohn. “Throughout her public service, as a Senate staffer and as Acting Chairwoman, she has been a thoughtful and engaging leader,” said Todd Washam, NATE Director of Government Relations and Wireless Industry Network. “NATE welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with her to expand broadband services, improve telehealth services, and other association priorities.” NATE encourages the Senate to act on her re-nomination.
Washam noted that Sohn has considerable experience working on issues under the FCC’s jurisdiction, and said NATE looks forward to working with her to expand broadband services.
Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein said he’s “thrilled” the President nominated three experienced public servants to fill out his telecommunications team. “We need these outstanding leaders confirmed as soon as possible to address the many pressing issues on the agenda, including winning the race to 5G. I have worked with each of them for over two decades and know them to be knowledgeable, open, and dedicated to advancing America’s telecommunications leadership.”
Adelstein said Rosenworcel’s “knowledge, experience, and commitment to bridging the digital divide and the homework gap will be crucial as the FCC guides America through the expansion of 5G. We look forward to working with her to increase broadband access and accelerate 5G deployment.”
Sohn’s “experience at the FCC and in the telecommunications field, and her deep commitment to the public interest, will serve consumers well,” noted Adelstein. He added that Davidson’s deep background in telecommunications and technology has prepared him to be a highly effective leader of NTIA.
“As the first woman nominated as permanent chair, this marks a significant milestone at the Commission and a fitting progression in her long and distinguished career in public service,” said NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith about Rosenworcel. “NAB also extends congratulations to Gigi Sohn on her nomination to the Commission. We look forward to working with the full Commission on how the FCC can ensure a thriving local broadcast industry.”
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief