President Biden’s pattern of selecting strong consumer advocates for executive branch leadership positions continued last Thursday, when he appointed current Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Serving as a Democrat commissioner at the FCC for the past eight years, Rosenworcel is a staunch supporter of network neutrality rules. As a commissioner under former President Obama, she was instrumental in then-Chairman Tom Wheeler’s development and adoption of the rules, and vigorously opposed former Chair Ajit Pai’s decision to rescind them. She will likely work to reinstate them during her tenure.
Additionally, Rosenworcel has become a vocal advocate for increasing broadband internet access for needy students and rural communities. She coined the term “the homework gap” to describe the difficulties of students who need internet access for their schoolwork but lack it at home, and has proposed that educational subsidies in the E-Rate program be used to fund increased home internet initiatives, as well as on-campus learning. She has also discussed how increased internet access could improve telehealth efforts in rural communities without nearby hospitals.
However, Rosenworcel’s plans may be limited by the current composition of the FCC. At the moment, she faces a deadlocked 2-2 Democrat-Republican split. Therefore, she will need bipartisan support to pass any initiatives, at least until a fifth commissioner can be appointed.