Rosenworcel & Sohn for FCC: Davidson to NTIA
December 7, 2021
Senate vote on Rosenworcel renomination and confirmation as FCC Chair to occur today at 11:30am.
October 28, 2021
FCC, NTIA Nominations Sent to Senate
The White House today (10/28/21) sent to the Senate the nominations of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and FCC Commissioner nominee Gigi Sohn and the nomination of Alan Davidson to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (TR Daily, Oct. 26).
Ms. Rosenworcel was renominated for a term of five years from July 1, 2020. Ms. Sohn was nominated for a term of five years from July 1, 2021, to the seat that had been held by former Chairman Ajit Pai.
October 26, 2021
Biden Names Rosenworcel Permanent Chair, Will Fill FCC, NTIA Vacancies
President Biden today designated acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel the permanent head of the agency, making her the first woman to get the job not on an acting basis, and also announced his intention to renominate her for another term. He also announced his intent to nominate former FCC official and public interest advocate Gigi Sohn for the vacant seat. Mr. Biden also plans to nominate Alan Davidson, a senior adviser for the Mozilla Foundation and a former Google, Inc., lobbyist, to be administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
“I am deeply humbled to be designated as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden,” Ms. Rosenworcel said in a statement. “It is an honor to work with my colleagues on the Commission and the agency’s talented staff to ensure that no matter who you are or where you live, everyone has the connections they need to live, work, and learn in the digital age. I also want to congratulate Gigi Sohn on her nomination to serve as a Commissioner at the agency and Alan Davidson on his nomination to serve as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.”
Ms. Rosenworcel will have to step down from her position if the Senate does not confirm her to another term before it completes its current session, as her term expired last year.
If the nominations are approved by the Senate this year, it will give Democrats a 3-2 majority. Since January, Democrats and Republicans have been deadlocked at two members each. If no Democratic nominees are confirmed this year, Republicans would have a 2-1 majority at the Commission, with Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks serving as acting Chairman.
Ms. Rosenworcel has been acting Chairwoman since January. Today’s announcement came after months of speculation about whether she would get the post on a permanent basis and when the announcement would be made. It likely will result in her moving items that she was not able to without a majority, including the reclassification of broadband Internet access under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, as amended.
Ms. Sohn is a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Foundation senior fellow and public advocate. She was a counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and former chief executive officer of Public Knowledge and executive director of the Media Access Project. If confirmed, she would be the first openly LGBTIQ+ FCC Commissioner.
Mr. Davidson previously was vice president-global policy, trust and security for Mozilla; director-digital economy at the Commerce Department during the Obama administration; director of New America’s Open Technology Institute; director-public policy/Americas for Google; and associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
During today’s monthly meeting, Commissioner Brendan Carr was the first to congratulate Ms. Rosenworcel on being named permanent FCC Chairwoman after the White House announced it in a news release.
“I want to extend my congratulations to Chairwoman Rosenworcel on her designation as Chair of the FCC and on her nomination by the White House to serve another five-year term. I also want to extend my congratulations to Gigi Sohn on her nomination to serve on the Commission,” Mr. Carr said in a statement released later. “During the past ten months, under the leadership of Chairwoman Rosenworcel, I have enjoyed the chance to work in a bipartisan manner to advance the public interest, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue this important work with my FCC colleagues.”
Asked during a conference call with reporters this afternoon how he expects the shift to a Democratic majority on the Commission to affect policymaking, Mr. Carr said, “I think we’ve had a really good run [on bipartisan decisions] the last nine or 10 months” and “I’m hoping for more of that.”
He noted that some parties hope to see the Commission return broadband services to a regulatory classification under Title II of the Communications Act. “I don’t begrudge people their policy preferences,” he said, but he argued that in 2021, “the threats to the free and open Internet” are coming from edge providers, and any impetus to return to Title II regulation should take that into account.
More generally, he said that “there’s certainly a path forward where we can continue to get bipartisan things done.” He acknowledged that the current situation on a politically tied Commission, in which he could start “at the 50-yard line” will not persist on a 3-2 Commission. He said that he will still be willing work from the other side of the 50-yard line to try to reach agreements. “I have a desire to work with my colleagues,” he said, adding, “I think we can still work together and get things done.”
“I congratulate my friend and colleague Jessica Rosenworcel on her nomination and her designation as Chairwoman of the FCC,” said Geoffrey Starks. “For many years, the Commission and the American people have benefitted from Jessica’s tireless advocacy for bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans—particularly our children. I am excited to collaborate on the important work ahead for our agency.
“In Gigi Sohn, President Biden has identified an accomplished leader whose talent, expertise, and experience will invigorate our work at the FCC,” Mr. Starks added in a statement. “Protecting consumers, advancing national security, promoting diverse media, and making modern communications networks accessible and affordable for every American are enormous tasks that require a full-strength FCC. I look forward to working with Gigi.”
Mr. Starks also welcomed the planned nomination of Mr. Davidson, saying, “Alan’s deep experience and commitment to advancing the public interest make him an outstanding choice. The FCC’s longstanding collaboration with NTIA is essential to our nation’s efforts to connect every American to high-quality, affordable communications networks. I look forward to continuing that partnership under Alan’s leadership.”
“I extend a heartfelt congratulations to Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel on her designation aspermanent chair and look forward to continuing to work with her,” said Commissioner Nathan Simington. “I also congratulate Gigi Sohn on her nomination. The FCC has much important work to do and I am eager to continue to implement sound policy on a bipartisan basis.”
“Today’s announcement by the White House of its slate of nominees for the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration comes at just the right time, with more work to do to improve our broadband deployment, spectrum management, and consumer protections,” said Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.). She added that she looks “forward to swiftly considering these nominations before the end of the year.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) said, “I commend President Biden for nominating these outstanding leaders for the FCC and NTIA. With these selections, the FCC will be fully equipped to reinstate Title II oversight and net neutrality for broadband providers, continue its work to close the digital divide, and ensure broadband is affordable for all. Today’s announcement will also ensure leadership is in place at the NTIA for the important issues that agency faces, including spectrum management and implementation of the historic broadband infrastructure investment included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”
Rep. Pallone called Ms. Rosenworcel “an exceptional choice to continue leading the FCC. The Acting Chair has been a consummate public servant with a deep understanding of the challenges before the Commission and a passion for solving them. Gigi Sohn is also a devoted public advocate whose career has centered around ensuring that the public interest is at the core of the FCC’s thinking. Together, and with current Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, they will make an excellent team.”
“Jessica Rosenworcel is a star—supremely expert and experienced, steadfast and committed as an advocate for consumers and competitors,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.). “Having worked with her over many years, I know first-hand her energetic dedication to cracking down on robocalls and other abuses, and expanding broadband access. She knows better than anyone else the vital role the Commission plays in protecting consumers and closing the digital divide by connecting Americans to essential services. I am especially proud of her deep Connecticut roots as a native of West Hartford and graduate of Wesleyan University. I look forward to working with soon-to-be Chair Rosenworcel as she continues her bold leadership of the FCC.”
Sen. Blumenthal added that he also looks “forward to working with Gigi Sohn, whose decades of experience and commitment to privacy, competition, and access will greatly benefit the FCC and consumers across the country.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s competition policy, antitrust, and consumer rights subcommittee, said, “During this vitally important time at the Federal Communications Commission, I strongly support both Jessica Rosenworcel’s nomination to lead the FCC as Chair and Gigi Sohn’s nomination to be an FCC Commissioner. As Congress works to move forward a historic investment in broadband infrastructure, strong leadership at the FCC is essential to deliver on the connectivity goals our 21-century economy demands. With more than two decades of experience at the FCC and the Senate Commerce Committee, I am confident that both Rosenworcel and Sohn have the expertise needed to close the digital divide and strengthen our nation for generations to come.”
“Today’s appointment of Gigi Sohn sends the clear message that President Biden is following through on his promises to make high-speed broadband more open, available, and affordable for all Americans. Gigi is a leading public interest advocate and has dedicated her career to increasing access to communications services that enable everyone to fully participate in our economy, society, and democracy,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) and antitrust, commercial and administrative law subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D., R.I.) said in a joint statement. “We applaud Gigi’s nomination to the Federal Communications Commission and look forward to working with her on critical issues such as competition, privacy, diversity, and affordability in the communications and media marketplace. The Senate should move quickly to confirm her to the FCC.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) called Ms. Rosenworcel “an excellent choice to lead the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Her qualifications and competency make her the best person to lead the FCC, at a time when we need it most. I am pleased President Biden has nominated her to lead this vital organization and have full faith in her ability to bring affordable, reliable broadband access to every West Virginian and American. Her leadership and experiences show how dedicated she is to ensuring the FCC helps everyone compete in the 21st Century. I look forward to voting for her confirmation.”
“Today President Biden announced historic telecom nominations, including Jessica Rosenworcel as the first woman to serve as permanent chair of the FCC and Gigi Sohn as the first openly LGBTIQ+ Commissioner of the FCC. Rosenworcel and Sohn are brilliant champions for innovation, public safety, national security, universal broadband, net neutrality, and social justice,” said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D., Calif.). “I also applaud the President for naming Alan Davidson as [administrator] of NTIA, and I look forward to continue working together in his new capacity. Bravo to all of today’s nominees.”
“President Biden’s nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel, Gigi Sohn, and Alan Davidson demonstrate a clear commitment to reinforcing American leadership in the global telecommunications marketplace—and I applaud his choices of these three proven leaders,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D., Calif.). “With their experience at the helm, we can work to deliver policies that support broadband equity, inclusion, and more affordable, reliable internet connections for American families. … I look forward to working with these leaders and the entire Biden Administration to meet the needs of the modern economy and build a stronger future for the American people.”
“None of these nominations are surprising, as these names have been seen as likely nominees for many months. Further, the nominations do not affect our broader thinking about investment themes or investment relevant government policies,” Blair Levin, an adviser to New Street Research LLP and a former FCC chief of staff, said in a research note today.
Mr. Levin said that the Democratic majority will (1) “likely adopt an order reclassifying carriers under Title II, and the order is likely to resemble the 2015 order that did the same in forbearing from price regulation and mandatory unbundling”; (2) “likely be friendlier to unlicensed and shared spectrum regimes, but it may be a while before there are any large spectrum blocks for which that preference can become manifest”; (3) “be more willing than their Republican predecessors to block or heavily condition mergers but we don’t see any large deals requiring FCC approval on the horizon” and will “likely follow the more aggressive antitrust policies of the new leadership at the [Federal Trade Commission] and [Department of Justice]”; (4) “be in the driver’s seat for framing a reform of universal service, but ultimately that reform will require either explicit or implicit Congressional support for any large changes”; (5) “write the rules for distributing new funding coming from Congress to provide subsidies for low-income persons to purchase broadband, but that is more in its nature an operational and administrative challenge, rather than one where policy preferences determine outcomes”; and (6) “be more aggressive on consumer protection issues.”
Mr. Levin also said that Ms. Sohn “may affect [the agency’s] digital discrimination inquiry and allegations of paid prioritization. There are several issues where Ms. Sohn may move the FCC to be more aggressive than it might have been otherwise, but we think these will have limited relevance to investors.”
Mr. Levin also said that “Mr. Davidson will have his hands full with traditional NTIA tasks in terms of spectrum, cybersecurity, and other policy efforts, particularly in his core expertise of privacy and other tech related issues. But in addition, he is likely to be the key point person for overseeing the $42.5 billion program allocating funds to states for closing the access digital divide,” which is proposed in the broadband infrastructure bill that has passed the Senate but not the House.
“While Congress has defined the parameters of the program, he will have significant flexibility in granting waivers, particularly as the law limits court challenges to NTIA’s decisions. But we think the larger truth is that Congress has moved the power to the states. While NTIA can provide advice to the state and encourage states to act in certain ways, it is the Governors who will be the most critical decision makers for where and how the money will, or will not, be spent,” he added. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org; Lynn Stanton, email@example.com
October 25, 2021 11:42 PM EDT
EXCLUSIVE - Politico By JOHN HENDEL
Biden expected to name 2 FCC picks in race to avert Republican majority
The president could name his choices of Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn as early as Tuesday, people familiar with the moves said.
The White House’s expected endorsement of acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel is likely to give more momentum to her efforts to close the digital “homework gap” and expand broadband using new subsidy programs created during the pandemic.
President Joe Biden is expected to name acting Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to lead the agency permanently, three people familiar with the decision said late Monday — giving her a key perch to shape Democrats’ broadband and net neutrality agenda.
Biden is also expected to nominate progressive net neutrality advocate Gigi Sohn, a former FCC official, to the open Democratic seat on the commission, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision is not yet public. The people said the White House has begun telling lawmakers about the imminent announcements.
The moves, which could be announced as soon as Tuesday (November 2, 2021), would give Democrats a majority on the five-person panel for the first time during Biden’s presidency, ending a 2-2 partisan stalemate that has stymied much of the progressive agenda for the FCC. That includes a restoration of the agency’s Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited internet providers from blocking and throttling consumers’ internet traffic.
But the decisions come relatively late in Biden’s term: Of his predecessors, only Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon waited as late as September of their first year to tap their FCC chair. And unless the Senate confirms Rosenworcel and Sohn by the end of December, Republicans are poised to gain a 2-1 majority on the commission come January.
Biden is also expected to nominate longtime tech lawyer Alan Davidson to head the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a key post for setting the executive branch’s policies on issues like wireless spectrum use and 5G, the people said.
Key context: The White House’s expected endorsement of Rosenworcel is likely to give more momentum to her efforts to close the digital “homework gap” and expand broadband using new subsidy programs created during the pandemic.
A nod to progressives: Biden’s choice of Sohn for the open Democratic seat would be the latest prominent gesture toward progressives. He had previously placed antitrust advocate Lina Khan in charge of the Federal Trade Commission and hired fellow anti-monopolist Tim Wu for a top economic advising role in the White House.
Sohn staked out a robust defense of net neutrality during the Obama years and was a top adviser to former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. She previously co-founded and led the left-leaning Washington advocacy group Public Knowledge.
Rosenworcel and Sohn have previously been at odds in some key fights, despite having many policy views in common. One of Sohn’s Obama-era causes was a controversial attempt to open the cable set-top box marketplace to more competition. Rosenworcel, who opposed that plan, used her tie-breaking vote on the commission to spike the effort.
Rosenworcel’s recent supporters include education and public safety groups as well as union workers, along with lawmakers including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). In September, 25 members of the Senate Democratic caucus told Biden that he should pick Rosenworcel to avoid risking the success of his broadband expansion ambitions.
Now the clock starts: Confirming these nominees would mean a mad dash for Senate Democratic leadership over the next two months.
Although Rosenworcel can immediately assume the permanent chair role, her term on the FCC lapsed in 2020, which means she must leave at the end of this year unless the Senate confirms her to a new five-year term.
Republicans would probably use the confirmation process to discourage any revival of net neutrality. They argue that that the GOP repeal of the policy in 2017 has not led to any of the horror stories that net neutrality advocates warned about, such as ISPs manipulating or blocking their customers’ internet traffic.
And the telecom lead at the Commerce Department: For the NTIA role, the people familiar with the decisions said, Biden picked Davidson — a veteran tech lawyer who has worked since 2018 at Mozilla, the company that launched the Firefox browser. There, Davidson helped handle the company’s data privacy and open internet portfolio.
He also spent years at other top tech posts — including at Google, whose former CEO Eric Schmidt is a strong Biden supporter and is active on a bevy of tech issues from 5G to artificial intelligence. He was Google’s first emissary to Washington, opening its D.C. office in 2005 and holding the title of director of public policy for a half-dozen years, which included lobbying for the search giant.
NTIA is likely to play a central role in shaping Biden’s agenda around broadband connectivity and 5G wireless technology, including on questions of security involving the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, as well as tech issues like data privacy. Under the bipartisan infrastructure plan that passed the Senate in August, the Commerce Department would also be in charge of giving out $42 billion in grants to states to support the build-out of broadband infrastructure.