As one of her first actions as Acting Chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel established a task force to improve the FCC’s broadband maps. Congress directed the agency to create an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. “It will enhance high-speed connections and offer new ways to connect for those struggling during the pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis,” she said during her first meeting in her new role.
Congress provided $3.2 billion for the effort, which will provide discounts of up to $50 per month for internet connectivity and equipment per low-income household and up to $75 a month for tribal land households. The FCC is reviewing public comments on the program.
Congress directed the FCC to create the program swiftly. “To write the rules for this program, we must act decisively and will need to make hard choices along the way,” said Rosenworcel during the meeting. “The program must be exclusive, expansive, inclusive and transparent.”
As part of that effort, the Commission needs to know where broadband is, and is not, available. “It’s no secret the FCC’s existing broadband maps leave a lot to be desired. We can do better, and we will.”
That’s why Rosenworcel named Jean Kiddoo as Chair of a new Broadband Data Task Force. Rosenworcel called the effort a “cross-agency effort.” Kiddo is the Chair of the broadcast Incentive Auction Task Force and will remain in that role as she begins this new group.
“When we surveyed how much work needs to be done,” including better data collection, Rosenworcel told reporters after the meeting, she said she realized “we need a structure that allows input from all of our offices. We looked to the incentive auction task force as a guide.” That task force took input from the media and wireless bureaus and the Office of Engineering and Technology, for example. The new task force will receive input from several of the agency’s bureaus as well.
Rosenworcel said the new task force is being put together along with a top to bottom agency review, and she hoped to provide more information soon. The review is typical when a new leader takes over the agency, to see if processes can be done more efficiently.
She had no comment on whether she would be named permanent chair of the agency, preferring to leave any such announcements up to the White House.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief