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Biden Names Jessica Rosenworcel Permanent FCC Chair

October 26, 2021 by Dan McCue
Jessica Roseworcel

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden made it official Tuesday, announcing he wants Jessica Rosenworcel, who has been acting FCC chair since January, to be his permanent head of the agency.

If Rosenworcel is confirmed, she would be the first woman to formally serve as FCC chair.

In a written statement released after her nomination was announced, Rosenworcel said she was “deeply humbled” by her selection by the president.

“It is an honor to work with my colleagues on the commission and the agency’s talented staff to ensure that no matter who you are or where you live, everyone has the connections they need to live, work, and learn in the digital age,” Rosenworcel said. 

In a summary of her tenure at the FCC, which began in 2012 when she was named a commissioner at the agency, the White House said “she has worked to promote greater opportunity, accessibility, and affordability in our communications services in order to ensure that all Americans get a fair shot at 21st century success. 

“From fighting to protect an open internet, to ensuring broadband access for students caught in the Homework Gap through the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, to making sure that households struggling to afford internet service stay connected through the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, she has been a champion for connectivity for all,” the release said.

The administration also calls her a leader in spectrum policy, crediting her with developing new ways to support wireless services from Wi-Fi to video and the Internet of Things. 

Prior to joining the FCC, Rosenworcel served as senior communications counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, under the leadership of Sens John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Rosenworcel graduated from Wesleyan University and New York University School of Law. 

In a nod to her past in law, the White House noted Rosenworcel has fought to combat illegal robocalls and enhance consumer protections in telecommunications policies.

In a related move, the president also nominated Gigi Sohn, a longtime public advocate for open and affordable telecom services and former FCC staffer, to fill the vacant commissioner post at the agency. 

If she is confirmed, Sohn would also make history, being the first openly LGBTQ commissioner in the FCC’s history.

“For over thirty years, Gigi has worked to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband Internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open, and protective of user privacy,” the White House said.

Sohn previously served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, and from 2001-2013 was co-founder and CEO of Public Knowledge, a communications and technology policy advocacy organization serving the interests of consumers. 

She also worked as a project specialist in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture unit and as executive director of the Media Access Project, a communications public interest law firm. 

Sohn holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and film, Summa Cum Laude, from the Boston University College of Communication and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The appointments of Rosenworcel and Sohn would give Democrats a 3-2 advantage among FCC commissioners. 

Both Rosenworcel and Sohn are known to be net neutrality supporters,making it likely the agency will now move forward to restore the FCC’s Open Internet order.

That order was struck down during the Trump administration.

Also announced Tuesday was the nomination of Mozilla Foundation adviser Alan Davidson to be assistant secretary for communications and information at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Davidson is an Internet policy expert with over 20 years of experience as an executive, public interest advocate, technologist, and attorney, the White House said.

He is currently a senior advisor at the Mozilla Foundation, a global nonprofit that promotes openness, innovation, and participation on the Internet. 

He was previously Mozilla’s vice president of global policy, trust and security, where he led public policy and privacy teams promoting an open internet and a healthy web. 

During the Obama administration Davidson served as the first director of Digital Economy in the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

He also started Google’s public policy office in Washington, D.C., leading government relations and policy in North and South America for seven years until 2012.

Additionally, Kathi Vidal, managing partner of Winston & Strawn’s Silicon Valley office, has been nominated to be under secretary for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“Nationally recognized for leading high-profile patent disputes, her experience covers a myriad of complex technologies from semiconductors and software to medical devices and consumer products, Vidal has received numerous accolades for her work—including being inducted as a Fellow by Litigation Counsel of America, a trial lawyer honorary society, the White House said. 

Over the course of her career, Vidal has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in U.S. district courts, the International Trade Commission, and at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

She also served as an adviser on IP policies for standard setting organizations, trademark and copyright matters, and on strategies for worldwide patent disputes including advising on national security, policy and related issues. 

In announcing her appointment, the White House noted Videl is also a recognized thought leader on difficult issues confronting the legal profession and intellectual property law, and has been active in the Sedona Conference, the Leahy Institute of Advanced Patent Studies, and the Federal Judicial Conference. 

She is also a Fellow of the Federal Circuit Bar Association.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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