Biden picks his broadband vanguard at FCC and Commerce Department

1 month ago 20
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President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his plans to tap acting Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel as the agency's permanent chief, ending months of cliffhanger drama about the choice.

Biden bundled the long-awaited announcement with his decisions to nominate veteran public interest heavyweights Gigi Sohn for the sole open FCC commissioner seat and Alan Davidson to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a key telecom policy role in the Commerce Department.

POLITICO reported late Monday that the White House was preparing to announce the trio's nominations.

Meet the broadband vanguard: These leaders would be at the front lines of the administration’s efforts to expand broadband internet service to every American, a cornerstone of the infrastructure efforts on Capitol Hill.

Under H.R. 3684 (117), the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that cleared the Senate in August, $65 billion would go to this goal, split among federal agencies including the FCC and NTIA. The FCC would be tasked with administering a broadband affordability subsidy to help consumers with their monthly bills and pass new rules to halt the practice known as digital redlining. The agency is also tasked with coming up with more accurate internet coverage maps to guide the billions in grants flowing to NTIA to support the build-out of physical internet infrastructure. NTIA would also be charged with administering grants dedicated to fostering digital equity.

The picks come during a potentially critical moment for the infrastructure bill, which is still awaiting a vote in the House, depending on how negotiations land with Biden's wider health, climate and social spending plan.

Although Biden waited longer than most presidents to name his FCC and NTIA picks, left-leaning advocacy groups were quick to cheer the choices. “This is a dream team for anyone who cares about the future of the internet and the media,” Free Press co-CEO Craig Aaron said.

But first, a test of Senate speed: These are all Senate-confirmed positions, and Democratic leadership will face pressure to move the nominees quickly.

As a sitting commissioner, Rosenworcel is the only one who can assume her new role immediately. But she requires Senate confirmation to a new five-year term at the agency, and without that will have to leave by the end of this year.

All three have long records in Washington that will likely take center stage as part of the Senate confirmation process. Senators will probably press Rosenworcel and Sohn about their plans for regulating broadband and reviving Obama-era net neutrality rules. Davidson, meanwhile, who was most recently a senior adviser at Mozilla, could face questions about his role as Google’s first Washington lobbyist more than a decade ago.

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