The White House on Monday announced that former FCC and Senate staffer Jessica Rosenworcel will return to the Federal Communications Commission.
A vocal supporter of tighter net neutrality rules for online traffic, Democrat Rosenworcel’s first five-year term expired in May 2016, but she was permitted to remain at the FCC for the rest of the year after President Obama renominated her just before he left office. President Trump withdrew the nomination a few weeks later.
According to Georgetown University law professor Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a longtime telecommunications consumer advocate, “This appointment rights a wrong, because she deserved confirmation last year, and should have been sitting on the commission all along. I look forward to her zealous advocacy for universal broadband deployment, especially for younger Americans.”
Two Republicans — Chairman Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly — along with one Democrat — Mignon Clyburn — now sit on the five-member commission, but Clyburn’s term will expire at the end of the month, leaving the agency short of a quorum to vote on rules and take other official moves.
It appears that Trump nominated Rosenworcel to replace Clyburn, although Trump could also renominate Clyburn along with another Republican, which would let the agency maintain its GOP majority, since the President is permitted to hold three of the agency’s five seats for his own party.
It’s likely that Rosenworcel’s nomination will be paired with the renomination of Pai, whose five-year term will lapse later this year.
In 2015, Rosenworcel joined the Democrat-controlled agency with Clyburn and then-Chairman Tom Wheeler to pass the controversial net neutrality rules which held broadband providers to the same utility-like oversight standards as conventional phone companies. The major broadband providers and Republicans were in strong opposition to the regulations, which are supposed to ensure the unrestricted flow of online content. Broadband providers were essentially forbidden to slow down Internet speeds for certain kinds of content, such as video streams, and were not allowed to sell faster lanes for delivering data or discriminate against any legal online material.
A Republican, Chairman Pai has proposed reversal of the utility-like oversight of broadband providers. Democrats and consumer advocates have expressed their concerns that this would make it harder to oversee net neutrality regulations.
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