Digital rights and other progressive groups on Thursday hailed President Joe Biden’s election of Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to lead the Federal Communications Commission into a new era of consumer advocacy after four years of former President Ajit Pai’s business-friendly management.
“Facing the pandemic, the economic crisis and the urgent need for racial justice, we need equal access to reliable communication tools and accurate news and information. “
—Jessica J. González,
Rosenworcel’s views were often in stark contrast to those of Pai, who was named FCC chairman by former President Donald Trump in January 2017 and who led the abolition of net neutrality, the approval of the T-Mobile-Sprint megamerger – as he was accused of betraying the public interest in the service of big business – and other controversial policies.
Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future, said goodbye to Pai in November by predicting that he “will go down in history as one of the most corrupt officials of the century.”
“His outrageous attacks on net neutrality and blatant interference by Big Telecom monopolies triggered the biggest cross-cutting online setback of the modern era,” Greer said. “When he disappears into the background, his complacent behavior and giant Reese’s mug become warning memes – reminding Internet users of what happens when we do not hold our government accountable.”
Fighting for the Future, on the other hand, welcomed the news of Rosenworcel’s appointment, urging Biden to “appoint another net neutrality champion … so the FCC can return to work and ensure affordable access to the open Internet in the midst of a pandemic.”
Store. Now we need Biden to appoint another #netneutrality champion and the Senate to move quickly to confirm them so the FCC can get back to work and ensure affordable access to the open internet in the midst of a pandemic. https://t.co/PyiiuEhc0n
– Fight for the future (@fightfortheftr) January 21, 2021
Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner and current special adviser to the non-partisan government reform group Common Cause, called Rosenworcel “ideal for the job.”
“I know, because we worked together when she led my staff while I was Commissioner there,” Copps said in a statement.
She knows the FCC from the bottom up and she understands how to make good things happen there. She … has demonstrated a mastery of the problems that have rarely been matched. Whether it’s bringing broadband to any home in America, encouraging Internet access to our schools, making wise decisions for spectrum utilization, contesting telecommunications and media monopolies. [or] fighting mis- and dis-information, she has a combination of vision and practicality that makes her perfect for the presidency. She is a true advocate of the public interest.
Jessica J. González, co-CEO of the media democracy group Free Press, also welcomed Rosenworcel’s appointment in a statement. It read in part:
Facing the pandemic, the economic crisis and the urgent need for racial justice, we need equal access to reliable communication tools and accurate news and information. We look forward to working with President Rosenworcel to restore the Commission’s Title II authority under the Communications Act and to open up opportunities to finally close the digital divide, ensure reliable access to the Internet and reintroduce non-discrimination policies such as net neutrality.
We also hope to work closely together on efforts to expand ownership and look at diversity in the broadcasting sector and ensure that broadcasters serve the public interest.
In a statement, Rosenworcel said she was “honored” to have been elected to head the FCC and that she would work to “expand the reach of communication opportunities in the digital age.”
Today, @POTUS appointed me acting chairman of the @FCC. I am honored and excited to lead this great agency. Now more than ever, we need to expand the reach of communication opportunities for all of us. We have a lot of work to do and I can not wait to get started.
– Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) January 21, 2021
Although Democrats – who now control the White House and both branches of Congress – intend to restore net neutrality, expand broadband subsidies and pursue other popular policies, Rosenworcel is likely to face serious challenges in doing so until Biden appoints a third Democrat Commission and they are confirmed by the Senate. It is not clear when that will happen; it is also not known whether Rosenworcel will remain permanent FCC chairman.