By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON -President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, told senators on Wednesday she backed landmark net neutrality rules, but offered few details on how she might move to reverse their 2017 rollback.
Late last month, Biden nominated Rosenworcel for a new term on the five-member commission and designated her chair. Biden also nominated Gigi Sohn, a former senior aide to Tom Wheeler who served as an FCC chairman under President Barack Obama, to an open seat.
Biden waited more than nine months to make nominations for the FCC, which has not been able to address some key issues because it currently has one vacancy and is split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans.
The FCC under Obama, Donald Trump’s predecessor, adopted net neutrality rules in 2015 barring internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes.
“I continue to support it,” Rosenworcel told the Senate Commerce Committee at her confirmation hearing. “The impact of the rollback in 2017 is broader than just net neutrality because it took the FCC away from oversight of broadband. … We need some oversight because it’s become such an essential service for day-to-day life.”
Rosenworcel declined to endorse Republican Senator John Thune’s suggestion that the FCC go to Congress before pursuing reinstatement of the 2015 rules. “I believe (the FCC) inherently has the authority,” she told him.
She said the FCC would have to open a traditional rulemaking process and hear public comment before voting to reinstate them.
Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell told reporters she would likely hold a hearing on Sohn’s nomination and a committee vote on Rosenworcel’s nomination on Dec. 1.
“Now more than ever, Americans actually need net neutrality,” Democratic Senator Ed Markey said.
Without being confirmed to a new term, Rosenworcel would need to leave the FCC next month.