It could be several months until a fifth Commissioner is appointed and actually seated at the FCC. That was the consensus Tuesday during a session of the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s virtual Connect (X): All Access Policy Summit.
Scott Thompson who chairs the Communications Infrastructure Litigation Practice at the Mintz law firm, said the administration is still trying to get cabinet members confirmed. He guessed a new FCC Commissioner could be nominated this spring.
Fellow panelist Bryan Tramont, a Managing Partner at law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer, said “historically it takes a while” for these moves when there’s a new administration. He said the process of nominating a fifth commissioner and getting Senate confirmation can take “months and months” and concluded, “usually by summer, these things get squared away.” The FCC has been evenly split politically 2-2 since the administration change.
In the meantime, these experts don’t expect a complete U-turn at the FCC on policy. Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel “has a long track record” at the agency of promoting closing the homework gap and broadband in general, noted Tramont. He believes she’ll move to build bridges with state, local and tribal authorities for broadband.
Bill Davenport, Wireless Advisor to Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, said the agency has been “going great guns” on broadband’s role as part of COVID relief. He cited the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Subsidy Program rules that Rosenworcel circulated for a vote this week. Davenport also mentioned the upcoming infrastructure legislation in Congress; telecom experts hope it includes money for wireless infrastructure deployment.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief