Important Week for Broadband, FCC, NTIA Nominations

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UPDATE Democrats are racing to wrap up talks on their spending bill before Halloween. While the timing is still in flux, party leaders are projecting confidence that the separate bipartisan infrastructure package could soon receive final passage — and with it, $65 billion in broadband funding.

Progressives, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), were not as bullish on Tuesday. They only agreed to back the bipartisan infrastructure bill as long as it was tied to the partisan spending package, and the details of that latter bill are still being hammered out, notes Politico.

Progressives were pleased that President Joe Biden nominated Gigi Sohn, a prominent liberal voice on telecom policy, to the open seat at the FCC and elevated Jessica Rosenworcel to Chair. The Commission will be fully staffed once Sohn is confirmed and Rosenworcel re-confirmed to a new five-year-term.

But getting Senate confirmation of both is urgent. With few legislative days left on the calendar, lawmakers have no time to waste in confirming Sohn and Rosenworcel, whose current lapsed term is mere months away from ending. Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said she hoped to consider their nominations “before the end of the year” — an ambitious timeline, considering the Senate’s other legislative duties, according to the account.

But if lawmakers are as close to wrapping up a spending deal, the timing of Biden’s nominations come at a pivotal moment. Biden also nominated Alan Davidson to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the other agency that plays an important role in distributing money for broadband programs. NTIA is expected to take on the bulk of responsibility in parceling out the broadband buildout funding in the infrastructure package, Inside Towers reported.

The nominations were met with widespread industry acclaim on Tuesday. Competitive Carriers Association President/CEO Steve Berry praised Rosenworcel, Sohn and Alan Davidson, nominated to head NTIA. “Each possesses vast industry experience and a true understanding of the importance of ensuring that consumers across the country, particularly in rural areas, have access to robust mobile broadband services,” said Berry.

WISPA President/CEO Claude Aiken said, “Each person brings into these core positions years of experience, deep connections, and legal and administrative know-how. Importantly, with these agencies now at ‘full power,’ their work will surely benefit American consumers, our economy, as well as those who linger without competitive and evolving broadband solutions in the digital divide.”

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