White House Names Leaders for FCC and NTIA

Jessica Rosenworcel testifies before a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing to examine the Federal Communications Commission June 24.

Jessica Rosenworcel testifies before a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing to examine the Federal Communications Commission June 24. Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via AP

With the nomination of Gigi Sohn, the FCC is also now poised to have a full suite of commissioners to tackle issues under its remit, including cybersecurity.

After months of uncertainty, President Joe Biden announced he will nominate Acting Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to be the agency’s permanent leader.

If confirmed by the Senate, Rosenworcel would be the first woman to chair the FCC.

“I am deeply humbled to be designated as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission by President Joe Biden,” Rosenworcel said, reacting to the White House announcement Tuesday. “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.” 

Biden also nominated Gigi Sohn—who served as counsel to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler—to fill a vacant seat on the commission and Alan Davidson, a senior adviser at the Mozilla Foundation, to lead the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.   

Typically, a deadlocked FCC has avoided more controversial issues. With a full slate of commissioners, Rosenworcel would be more empowered to pursue her priorities, one of which involves creating an interagency, cross-bureau team to review national security threats and using the FCC’s equipment authorization process to certify the cybersecurity fifth-generation networks and their connected devices.

The industry response to the nominations focussed on broadband expansion efforts that have long been mired in unreliable coverage maps and debate over net neutrality regulations. Rosenworcel has driven a push to redo the maps based on consumer input. 

“Both understand the power of broadband to make real progress in advancing social justice, healthcare, education, and sustained economic growth and opportunity,” US Telecom President and CEO Jonathan Spalter said of the Rosenworcel and Sohn. “Our members across the nation and the globe will continue to be ‘all-in’ as a partner to Chair Rosenworcel, her fellow commissioners and the dedicated FCC staff in shaping smart, common sense and pro-consumer communications policies that look firmly to the future to build a truly connected, innovating, inclusive, and globally competitive nation.”

Under her would-be predecessor Ajit Pai, the FCC ceded some areas previously under the agency’s control to the Federal Trade Commission and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. 

The NTIA also plays a cybersecurity role, as Spalter noted reacting to Davidson’s nomination. 

“NTIA is a central driver of the government’s overall connectivity work – touching the internet, 5G, spectrum, cybersecurity and, of course, broadband deployment,” he said. “In Alan Davidson, President Biden has nominated a person with a range of technology and innovation experience, and a perspective that crosses the public, private and non-profit spheres. We wish him luck in his confirmation and look forward to deepening our work with NTIA and the Commerce Department to bring the benefits of broadband connectivity everywhere.”

Biden nominations Tuesday also included Kathi Vidal for under secretary for intellectual property and director of the Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office at the Department of Commerce and Laurel Blatchford for controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

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