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White House picks Jessica Rosenworcel as first female FCC chair

·Weekend Editor
·1-min read
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: Commissioner of Federal Communications Commission Jessica Rosenworcel (L) speaks as commissioner of Federal Communications Commission Michael O’Rielly (R) listens during a hearing before Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee at Russell Senate Office Building June 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to examine the oversight of Federal Communications Commission. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The FCC might soon have its first permanent woman leader. President Biden has nominated current acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to a permanent position, making her the first female to lead the commission if confirmed. The nomination isn't be a surprising move given her existing title, broad support and alignment with White House policies on issues like net neutrality, but it still represents a milestone for the agency.

Biden has also nominated Gigi Sohn for an unoccupied commissioner position. She was counselor to former FCC chair Tom Wheeler and has been an outspoken advocate of "open, affordable and democratic" communications, according to the White House.

Whether or not Rosenworcel clears the necessary hurdles is another matter. The Senate must confirm Rosenworcel to make her appointment official, and she could face staunch opposition from Republicans who are both historically anti-regulation and eager to reclaim FCC control. The party could retake the majority in the commission if Rosenworcel and the empty commissioner position aren't confirmed by the end of 2021.

If Rosenworcel does pass the Senate, though, she would contrast sharply with the last permanent FCC chair, Ajit Pai. While much of Rosenworcel's work as acting chairwoman has focused on easy-to-pass rules on issues like robocalls, she has been a strong proponent of net neutrality and other efforts to keep big telecoms in check. That's largely the opposite of Pai, who dismantled neutrality and generally sided with incumbent telcos. Don't be surprised if Rosenworcel used a permanent appointment to undo more of Pai's work, at least so long as she has the votes.

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