President Biden picks Jessica Rosenworcel as acting FCC chief

Communications lawyer is a long-time advocate for equitable broadband

President Biden has chosen Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Rosenworcel is an FCC veteran. After a career practicing communications law in Washington, DC, she served at the Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau as Senior Legal Advisor and as an attorney-advisor in the Common Carrier Bureau's policy division. After that, she took a position as the senior communications counsel for the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in 2007.

She was confirmed as an FCC commissioner in 2012 and continued in that role under Ajit Pai, who she replaces as chairwoman. During her tenure, the FCC will likely be very different than it was under Pai, who pushed through rules that eliminated long-held net neutrality principles. Rosenworcel was one of three commissioners who voted to keep the rules in 2015 under then-chairman Tom Wheeler.

Rosenworcel is an outspoken advocate for public access to high-speed broadband, repeatedly warning of a digital divide for children, which she calls the “homework gap.” As a commissioner, she helped expand the FCC's E-Rate program, which offers discounted internet access to schools and libraries.

She will act as chairwoman until Biden officially nominates her or someone else for the position.

Enhancing broadband capabilities will be near the top of Rosenworcel's list at the FCC. President Biden promised to prioritize internet access for Americans as part of his “Build Back Better” plan, vowing to offer universal broadband.

Her appointment coincides with the release of the FCC's Annual Broadband Report compiled under Pai, which said that broadband rollout continued to occur on a timely basis. The report maintained its current broadband definition of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. It dismissed suggestions to increase the threshold, arguing the minimum standard is enough.

Rosenworcel dissented. "We are in the middle of a pandemic. So much of modern life has migrated online. As a result, it has become painfully clear there are too many people in the United States who lack access to broadband. In fact, if this crisis has revealed anything, it is the hard truth that the digital divide is very real and very big," she said.

"So it confounds logic that today the FCC decides to release a report that says that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion."

Cheap broadband is hard for low-income Americans to get. According to the Pew Internet Research Center, only 56% of households with incomes under $30,000 have household broadband access.

Other big issues on Rosenworcel's desk will include spectrum allocation and network security for 5G, a potential push for privacy rules under Biden, and whether to review Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The FCC could also wait until it’s under Democrat control to review the net neutrality rules.

Featured Resources

2021 Thales cloud security study

The challenges of cloud data protection and access management in a hybrid and multi cloud world

Free download

IDC agility assessment

The competitive advantage in adaptability

Free Download

Digital transformation insights from CIOs for CIOs

Transformation pilotes, co-pilots, and engineers

Free download

What ITDMs did next - and what they should be doing now

Enable continued collaboration and communication for hybrid workers

Recommended

HPE wins contract for Kestrel supercomputer with US renewable energy lab
high-performance computing (HPC)

HPE wins contract for Kestrel supercomputer with US renewable energy lab

2 Dec 2021
ID.me and Sterling Check partner on in-person identity verification
identity and access management (IAM)

ID.me and Sterling Check partner on in-person identity verification

19 Nov 2021
Podcast transcript: Can the US take on big tech?
Policy & legislation

Podcast transcript: Can the US take on big tech?

19 Nov 2021
The IT Pro Podcast: Can the US take on big tech?
Policy & legislation

The IT Pro Podcast: Can the US take on big tech?

19 Nov 2021

Most Popular

What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

30 Nov 2021
How to move Microsoft's Windows 11 from a hard drive to an SSD
Microsoft Windows

How to move Microsoft's Windows 11 from a hard drive to an SSD

24 Nov 2021
What is single sign-on (SSO)?
single sign-on (SSO)

What is single sign-on (SSO)?

2 Dec 2021