Oct 26, 2021 - Technology

Biden names Jessica Rosenworcel first female leader of FCC

A photo of Jessica Rosenworcel as she testifies before Congress
Jessica Rosenworcel. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Jessica Rosenworcel to be chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Alan Davidson to be head of the telecom arm of the Commerce Department, and Gigi Sohn to be commissioner at the FCC.

Why it matters: Internet availability and affordability has been a key policy priority for the White House, but the administration lagged in tapping people for the agency posts that oversee the issues.

Driving the news: Davidson, who opened Google's policy shop in D.C. in 2005, was most recently with Mozilla.

  • As head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Davidson will have a key role in overseeing how states spend the $42.5 billion the Senate-approved infrastructure package would put toward broadband projects.
  • Rosenworcel, who would be the first permanent female head of the agency, has been leading the FCC on an interim basis since Biden took office. She's implemented pandemic-relief broadband programs including a $50 monthly discount off internet service for low-income households.
  • Sohn was an FCC adviser during the Obama administration and was pivotal in the development of the agency's net neutrality rules. Sohn, who is believed to be the first open member of the LGBTQ+ community to be a commissioner, is currently a distinguished fellow with the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy.

Between the lines: Rosenworcel has lined up support from senators, labor unions and teachers. Sohn is viewed as the progressives' pick for the agency.

What they're saying: The nominations were cheered by telecom industry players and public interest groups.

  • "Jessica Rosenworcel, Gigi Sohn, and Alan Davidson all have years of experience in fighting for the public interest in broadband policy, whether it is in government or the nonprofit sector," said Chris Lewis, president of advocacy group Public Knowledge, which Sohn co-founded.

What's next: All three posts require Senate confirmation. Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said in a statement she wants to consider the nominations before the end of the year.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information about Rosenworcel and Sohn, the White House announcement of the nomination and reaction.

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