FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
I congratulate Mike O’Rielly on his renomination to serve as FCC Commissioner. Commissioner O’Rielly is incredibly knowledgeable on communications policy matters and has contributed so much to the work of the agency. Moreover, he has been a valuable colleague and friend. I look forward to continuing my work with Mike and wish him well in the confirmation process.
Today’s waiver of the E-Rate and Rural Health Care gift rules is a smart step to assist in coronavirus response. As a result, schools and hospitals will be able to receive enhanced services and equipment from their service provider without running afoul of the Federal Communications Commission’s gift rules. But let’s not confuse generosity for justice, because we need a national plan to ensure that everyone is connected during these unprecedented days.
The Federal Communications Commission should use its power in this emergency to provide schools with Wi-Fi hotspots to loan out to students who lack reliable internet access at home. It has the authority to do so under the Telecommunications Act. This law, now more than two decades old, directed the agency to set up a program to support internet service in schools across the country, through a program known as E-Rate. Today, E-Rate funds broadband for educational purposes in every state.
The coronavirus demands swift and decisive action. We know that more Americans than ever before will need internet access for work, education, and healthcare. We also know that this crisis will expose hard truths about the scope for the digital divide. That is why today’s pledge by a number of broadband providers is a welcome first step. But we will need to do more to keep the country connected. Here are three things that the FCC can do next: First, we need to get to work to connect schoolchildren.
FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel Calls On FCC To Take Aggressive Action To Assist With Coronavirus Response
The coronavirus is already exposing hard truths about the digital divide, but the Federal Communications Commission has the power to help. Nationwide this crisis means that we are going to explore the expansion of telework, telehealth, and tele-education. The FCC should immediately convene the country’s broadband providers to discuss what they are doing right now to provide service for Americans.
You might think it could never happen here in the United States. But think again. To understand how, start with the Communications Act of 1934 — which, though it has been amended and updated several times, is essentially an 86-year-old law that is still the framework for US communications policy today.
The FCC got it wrong when it repealed net neutrality. The decision put the agency on the wrong side of history, the American public, and the law. And the courts agreed. That’s why they sent back to this agency key pieces regarding how the rollback of net neutrality protections impacted public safety, low income Americans, and broadband infrastructure. Today, the FCC is seeking comment on how best to move forward. My advice? The American public should raise their voices and let Washington know how important an open internet is for every piece of our civic and commercial lives.
While the spirit of this effort is right on—we have a broadband problem—the way we go about addressing it is not right. It will leave so many people, so many communities, and so many places behind. Let me explain why.
For more than a year, the [Federal Communications Commission] was silent after news reports alerted us that for just a few hundred dollars, shady middlemen could sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data. It’s chilling to consider what a black market could do with this data. It puts the safety and privacy of every American with a wireless phone at risk. Today this agency finally announced that this was a violation of the law. Millions and millions of Americans use a wireless device every day and didn’t sign up for or consent to this surveillance.
While the spirit of this effort is right on—we have a broadband problem—the way we go about addressing it is not right.