Senate Must Confirm Biden’s FCC Picks to Ensure Open and Affordable Internet

After months of waiting, Jessica Rosenworcel has been appointed chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Gigi Sohn will take the fifth and final seat on this five-person commission. The agency will remain at two-two, Democrats against Republicans, until these vacancies are filled. Now that there’s daylight for a clear majority, action at the FCC is urgent to protect an open internet, make it more affordable to everyone and address the disgraceful lack of diversity in ownership of U.S. media.

Washington, D.C., was buzzing with questions about the key leadership positions for the past year. It takes so much time to name anyone. longest delayRecent memory: In 1977, President Jimmy Carter was able to nominate at least one new chair by September of that year.

In the interim, the Biden administration repeatedly stated that it was a priority to ensure everyone has access to high-speed Internet. The delay in naming a permanent chair to the FCC as well as a fifth commissioner has hobbled the agency’s ability to ensure that U.S. broadband is open and affordable to everyone.

To do this, the FCC must reclaim its Title II authority under the Communications Act to regulate internet access as an essential utility. Now the White House has given the FCC the leadership and votes it needs to get the job done — and it’s incumbent on the Senate to confirm Rosenworcel and Sohn as soon as possible.

Even before Biden became president, the stakes were already clear. The Trump administration’s disastrous decisions gutting the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband and repealing net neutrality rules in late 2017 marked a cultural momentThey are. Without net neutrality protections, powerful companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are free to take from internet users the ability to choose where we go and whom we connect with online. People demonstrated outside of Verizon stores — since Verizon was a former employer of Donald Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the days leading up to the repeal. My media reform advocacy group, Free Press and our allies — including Democratic FCC commissioners and lawmakers — assembled on a cold December morning with dozens of activists outside the FCC to protest the decision and call for the return of protections.

Since Biden’s inauguration, public interest groups and activists have sent letters and petitions to the White House and Senate leadership calling for the agency to get the majority it needs to repair the damage done during the Trump years.

These shouldn’t be partisan issues, and outside of the Beltway, they aren’t. But they are within D.C. The agency has been unable take bold action without the votes required to restore FCC authority to broadband. It hasn’t been able to fully stop internet service providers from cutting off people’s service during the COVID-19 pandemic, or investigate these companies’ unjust and unreasonable use of data capsTo make more money from an emergency COVID funding program to internet subscribers.

Additionally, the agency successfully created that new programIt is also known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit, and it is part of a pandemic relief bill that Congress passed last January. couldn’t require providers to accept that benefit on every plan they offer because it didn’t have the votes to do so. It implemented these new bills Congress is passing only in ways that would pass muster with the agencies’ two Republican commissioners. The short-staffed FCC also couldn’t fully guarantee its longstanding Lifeline program — which offers a subsidy to those who can’t afford the high costs of communications — would be useful for broadband, or take other transformative steps to ensure affordable high-speed internet access for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which are disproportionately affected by the digital divide.

The agency can do everything it needs with a properly filled-out commission. It must conduct the race-equity audit called for by Free Press’s Media 2070 projectMediaJustice, MediaJustice, and more than 100 community leaders. The audit would also include an FCC investigation on the history and implications of racism in media policies. It would also identify reparative actions that could be taken by the agency.

The administration is now facing a serious time crunch. Confirmation of FCC nominees such as Rosenworcel or Sohn could take several months. But we don’t have that kind of time now, thanks to how long the White House took to finalize these picks.

Now the ball is in the Senate’s court. If the Senate wants to prioritize affordable internet, net-neutrality protections, and an equitable system of media, it must confirm Rosenworcel & Sohn. Now is the time. Get it now.This is possible because everyone can help. contacting their senatorsSupport for quick confirmation