Senate Confirms Rosenworcel as Next FCC Chair
WASHINGTON — Jessica Rosenworcel has been reappointed as FCC commissioner, making her the first female chair in the agency’s nearly 90-year history.
The Senate vote on Tuesday was 68-31.
In a floor speech shortly beforehand, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Rosenworcel “a remarkable, highly experienced and historic nominee.”
“Rosenworcel is exactly the right person for the job in 2021,” he continued. “She has set herself apart as one of the nation’s leading champions for a more affordable and accessible internet.
“After the FCC repealed net neutrality during the Trump administration, the best thing the Senate can do is to confirm someone with a proven record of standing on the side of American consumers,” he said.
Rosenworcel has served as a commissioner at the FCC for nearly a decade, the past 10 months as acting chair. Her formal ascension to the position comes at a time when the agency is overseeing the expansion of broadband access to millions of Americans.
“Rosenworcel is keenly aware of the immense damage that the digital divide has caused our country: it has shut out rural, urban, and low-income Americans, including far too many women and people of color for whom basic internet access remains unavailable or unaffordable, even as it is a necessity in the 21st century,” Schumer said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also chimed in, confirming his vote in Rosenworcel’s favor.
“I’ve worked with Jessica Rosenworcel for years to bring reliable, affordable broadband access to every West Virginian and had the honor of hosting her in the Mountain State two years ago,” he said. “I know she will lead the FCC with experience and knowledge that will help the FCC succeed when we need it most, which is why I strongly supported her nomination.
“Jessica Rosenworcel’s dedication to ensuring everyone has access to broadband, no matter where they live, is commendable, and I look forward to working with her as FCC chair,” Manchin added.
Rosenworcel’s formal ascension to chair also brings the agency a step closer to bringing back net neutrality.
In October, President Joe Biden nominated her and net neutrality advocate Gigi Sohn to the commission board, and confirmation of both women would both end an extended deadlock at the commission and create a Democratic majority on the board.
Sohn, however, has run into resistance from Republicans over past comments she’s made in speeches and on Twitter.
During a recent hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan asked her about dismissive comments she’s made about Fox News, including that it’s “State-sponsored propaganda.”
“I am concerned about her record of expressing hyper-partisan views on many critical matters that have come before the commission and which may come before the commission again in the future,” he said.
Sohn responded by explaining the context for her past remarks, but the opposition against her makes it likely she won’t receive a vote by the full Senate until early next year.
In the meantime, a number of organizations are hailing the favorable vote for Rosenworcel.
The National Education Association, one of the first groups to publicly endorse her for FCC chair, said it is confident she will continue her work to close the so-called “homework gap” by bringing greater connectivity to public school students, educators and libraries nationwide.
“No matter what we look like or where we live, everyone deserves access to the internet and the world of possibilities that it opens. Any educator can recall instances when their students were forced to do their schoolwork outside fast-food restaurants, sat in school parking lots to log onto the school’s WiFi, or lingered in community centers so they could get online because broadband access at home wasn’t an option,” said NEA President Becky Pringle in a written statement.. “Accessing the internet is a major part of equity and opportunity in education. It is critical for conducting research, doing homework, and attending class.
“On behalf of NEA’s members, I congratulate Jessica Rosenworcel on her historic confirmation as the first woman to permanently chair the Federal Communications Commission. We look forward to partnering with her and other members of the Biden-Harris administration so that educators can continue supporting students and their families by closing the homework gap,” she said.
Michael Powell, president and CEO of The Internet & Television Association, also congratulated Rosenworcel.
“The commission plays an important role in expanding access to broadband, America’s opportunity infrastructure, to more U.S. citizens,” Powell said. “We look forward to working with Chairwoman Rosenworcel and her colleagues on this important mission and building on the successful policies that incent private sector investment, innovation and competition in America’s telecommunications marketplace.”
Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is now a special adviser to Common Cause, the Washington-based government watchdog group.
“It was a long and winding road for Jessica Rosenworcel, but she stayed the course and good sense has now finally prevailed with today’s Senate vote,” Copps said. “Jessica faces a daunting agenda as chair but she has the experience and dedication to make historic progress leading the FCC. Past commission mistakes must be corrected and new trails blazed to provide our country with the communications ecosystem our democracy so clearly must have.
“Needed now is a fifth commissioner, so that a full FCC can get on with its important mandate of protecting the public interest,” Copps added.
In a Tweet Tuesday afternoon, Rosenworcel responded by saying “It’s the honor of my lifetime to lead the FCC and serve as the first permanent female chair. Thank you to the president and Senate for entrusting me with this responsibility. There’s work to do to make sure modern communications reach everyone, everywhere. Now let’s get to it.”
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