The wireless industry is beginning to wind down 2G and 3G networks in an effort to repurpose that spectrum for ultra-fast 5G. But lawmakers and public interest groups are increasingly concerned that shutting down those old networks could leave millions of people who still rely on them without service, particularly in rural areas. And there’s new pressure for the Federal Communications Commission to intervene.
During an April 20 hearing, multiple members of the House Agriculture Committee said they want to push their colleagues to move the Agriculture Department’s two-year-old ReConnect program, aimed at helping deliver broadband to rural lands, past its pilot stage. Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA) said he wants his panel to be at “the vanguard” of tackling the digital divide.
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr is urging Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to publicly release the draft text of a forthcoming proposal allocating $7.1 billion in pandemic relief subsidies for distance learning. Commissioner Carr says she should publish it before commissioners vote on the item to make it easier to coordinate with the Departments of Education and Treasury on broadband spending, which he sees as a matter of good governance with taxpayer money.
Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel revealed just how soon she hopes to set up the $7 billion subsidy program aimed at helping students get internet connections at home. Congress slated this money for the FCC as part of the pandemic relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law in march. The FCC is still “mid-course in developing” the program for doling out these subsidies, which could help put Wi-Fi hotspots and modems in the hands of students stuck at home, said Chairman Rosenworcel.
A group of leaders with direct lines to the Biden administration—including Common Sense Media’s Jim Steyer, former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), and former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings—is launching a commission that will assemble a “blueprint” for a comprehensive tech policy agenda under President Biden, with a focus on soliciting input from people inside as well as outside DC. There’s still a ton we don’t know about where the Biden administration will come down on issues at the heart of the tech industry, like privacy and Section 230 reform.
Gov Gina Raimondo (D-RI), President Biden's nominee for Commerce Secretary, is pledging to use the tools at her disposal to pursue Section 230 reform, saying that she hopes to hold social media companies "accountable" for misinformation. "I would agree we need some reform on Section 230," said Gov Raimondo during her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Commerce Committee.
For the bulk of his tenure, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has avoided wading into the relentless controversies that defined President Trump's presidency.
Here are the top reforms and nominations that could stand a chance in the new Congress assuming — as now seems likely — Democrats control both chambers and the White House.
Joe Biden may or may not have a short list of people he'd nominate to chair the Federal Communications Commission, but the rest of Washington does. Tech lobbyists, tech activists, and current and former FCC officials have all begun speculating about who Biden would choose if he wins.
Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is widely considered among the frontrunners to lead the FCC under a Biden administration. Protocol spoke with Commissioner Rosenworcel about whether the process around President Donald Trump's social media executive order has become corrupt, why she thinks FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is dropping the ball when it comes to helping students get internet access, and what she thinks a Democratic administration should prioritize on tech policy.