Interim FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel could save net neutrality

President Joe Biden has appointed Jessica Rosenworcel interim president of the Federal Communications Commission, making her the temporary head of the agency and a lead to be the full-time replacement. Here’s what you need to know about the new FCC boss.

On Thursday, President Biden named Rosenworcel as his choice for an interim president of the FCC. Taking over from former president Ajit Pai, the role now means a Democratic-inclined commissioner is in office, after four years of Republican leadership.

Rosenworcel’s appointment is only temporary for now, but she has a good chance of becoming the permanent president for Biden’s full term given the democratic control of the Senate.

For the foreseeable future, there is a 2-2 odds among Democratic and Republican commissioners making decisions for the FCC, rather than the usual 3-2 split in favor of the president’s political party. This will most likely be restored quickly to avoid any decision-making stalemate, with the confirmation of a fifth commissioner.

In a declaration on his appointment, Rosenworcel said, “It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communication opportunities in the digital age.”

Rosenworcel’s career so far

A native of West Hartford, Connecticut, Rosenworcel is a graduate of Wedleyan University and New York University School of Law. Prior to joining the FCC, he practiced communications law in Washington DC

After joining the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau in 1999, she began working for FCC Commissioner Michael Copps in 2003. In 2007, Rosenworcel was the Senior Communications Counsel for the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation of the United States Senate.

President Barack Obama appointed her to a commissioner role in 2011, and she was sworn in the following year. She was renamed by Obama in 2015, when her first term ended, but remained in office until January 2017 without a Senate reconfirmation.

President Donald Trump appointed Rosenworcel for another term in June 2017 and received confirmation from the Senate the following August.

In addition to being an FCC commissioner, Rosenworcel is also president of the Joint State-Federal Conference on Advanced Telecommunications Services, which aims to encourage parties at the local, state and federal levels to discuss the implementation of new communication technologies.

Time as Commissioner

In his role as commissioner, Rosenworcel faced a number of important events chaired by the FCC. An FCC statement outlines its policy as a work to “promote greater opportunity, accessibility and affordability” in communications.

These include attempts to fight to protect net neutrality and help students caught up in the “homework gap” to gain access to the Internet. He also worked on spectrum policy, covering Wi-Fi and other wireless services and the Internet of Things.

Net Neutrality

As a staunch advocate of net neutrality, Rosenworcel was on hand to vote on the concept in a 2015 FCC decision. Under the move, the FCC voted to regulate ISPs as “common carriers” under the Communications Act. preventing ISPs from creating the so-called “fast track” of the Internet and making it easier for municipal broadband networks to grow.

The reclassification of Title II was celebrated at the time, but was relatively short-lived. In 2017, Pai led the vote on the Restoring Internet Freedom initiative, which was intended to end the net neutrality protections put in place just two years earlier, despite massive public outcry.

As one of the two dissenting votes, Rosenworcel did not mince words in his statement against the decision, declaring the path to voting as a “corrupt process” and arguing that he put the FCC “on the wrong side of history, the side of the law and the wrong side of the American public. ”

Citing the revolutionary nature of the open internet, the way existing net neutrality policies had already passed at the court meeting, and the alleged tampering with public comments on the matter, Rosenworcel also offered hope that the decision could change in the future. .

“So let’s persist. Fight. Let’s not stop here or now. It is too important. The future depends on it, ”concludes the Rosenworcel statement.

By February 2020, when the FCC was legally required to seek public comments on the repeal, Rosenworcel took the opportunity to issue a press release to promote the call, as the FCC did not advertise it widely.

“The FCC was wrong when it repealed net neutrality,” wrote Rosenworcel. “My advice? The American public should raise their voices and let Washington know how important the open Internet is to every part of our civic and commercial life.”

Questions about net neutrality are likely to emerge quickly under Rosenworcel’s watch.

With a bipartisan bill introduced in December to remove the legal protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from online platforms for content posted on services, the FCC could be called upon to make a decision on related matters sooner rather than later.

Apple opposed the 2017 repeal of net neutrality, citing that how the internet is used should be determined by customers and not platforms. “What consumers do with these tools is up to them, not Apple and not the broadband providers,” Apple said at the time.

Denounce the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint

In 2019, the FCC gave the green light to the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, a deal worth approximately $ 26.5 billion. The Pai-led FCC voted 3-2 in favor, with Rosenworcel voting against.

In his commentary on the vote, Rosenworcel said the deal “will only hurt consumers” with price increases and job losses. Rosenworcel argued that mergers into a concentrated market have usually led to price reductions, for example with baggage fees and smaller seats on airlines, or increased prices for pharmaceuticals.

“There is no reason to think the mobile phone industry will be any different,” he added. “In deciding to overlook this damage, the FCC and the Justice Department were courted by some unenforceable concessions and false promises from the two companies involved.”

Rosenworcel suggested that the merger would “end a golden age in wireless” which promoted innovation and lower prices, as well as unlimited data plans and international roaming.

“In short, our existing wireless market will morph into a welcoming oligopoly dominated by just three carriers,” the Commissioner predicted. “They will do nothing to make it easier for Americans to stay in touch.”

Location and privacy services

In January 2019, carriers vowed to do better at controlling access to location data, following an earlier report that a bounty hunter was able to track down a smartphone for just $ 300. Rosenworcel was quick to go. state that the FCC needed to investigate the reports immediately.

After months of the FCC being “totally silent” about related press reports, a statement from Rosenworcel in May 2019 highlighted the lack of transparency on the matter. While the investigation was ongoing at the time, it was pointed out that major carriers confirmed to the FCC that they had stopped selling customer geolocation data to third-party aggregators, for the most part.

Apple’s approximate location controls in iOS 14 can give an app a general idea of ​​where a user is currently, without necessarily providing perfect accuracy.

By January 2020, a year later, Pai said the investigation had been completed and found that the companies “apparently” broke the law and that “one or more” carriers could face fines.

“For more than a year, the FCC has been silent after news reports warned us that for a few hundred dollars, shady brokers could sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data,” he says. Rosenworcel’s statement at the time. “It’s chilling to consider what a black market could do with this data. He jeopardizes the safety and privacy of every American with a wireless phone. ”

Rosenworcel’s comments on the matter indicate that she would be wrong towards enabling privacy, which puts her in line with Apple’s views on location tracking and privacy in general.


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