Biden's (Acting) Team Broadband

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, January 22, 2021

Weekly Digest

Biden's (Acting) Team Broadband

 You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.

Round-Up for the Week of January 18-22, 2020

Kevin Taglang

On January 20, John G. Roberts, Jr., the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, swore in President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. In the (few) hours since, President Biden has been very busy. On Thursday, we learned who will be heading the key agencies with jurisdiction over broadband as President Biden named the acting leaders of the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission. Here's a look at all three.

FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

President Biden designated FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel was first appointed to the FCC by President Barack Obama, taking her seat on May 11, 2012. Although President Obama renominated her for a second term in May 2015, the Senate failed to act on her nomination and she briefly left the Commission on January 3, 2017. With strong support from Senate Democrats, Rosenworcel was renominated by President Donald Trump and regained her seat on August 11 of that year. Prior to joining the agency, she served as Senior Communications Counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee under the leadership of Senator John Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Before her time on the Hill, Rosenworcel was a key staffer of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. 

Jessica Rosenworcel

“I am honored to be designated as the Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden," Chairwoman Rosenworcel said Thursday. "I thank the President for the opportunity to lead an agency with such a vital mission and talented staff. It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age.”

Rosenworcel is the second woman to lead the agency.

Her fellow-commissioners were quick to voice their support. “I want to extend my congratulations to Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on being named Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission," said Brendan Carr. "She is a talented and dedicated public servant, as evidenced by her eight years of distinguished service on the FCC. I look forward to working with Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel.”

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said, "Congratulations to my friend and colleague Jessica Rosenworcel on her designation as acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission. For many years, Jessica has been a passionate advocate for bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans—particularly our children. Her designation comes at a critical juncture for the Commission, as COVID-19 has made bold action to end internet inequality more vital than ever. I look forward to working with her to close the digital divide and on the wide range of pressing issues facing the Commission.”

Newly-confirmed Commissioner Nathan Simington said, "I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Her designation as Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission is an important and timely step in addressing vital public business. I appreciate the Biden Administration’s dispatch in promoting continuity and its thoughtfulness in selecting such a distinguished public servant for this vital role. Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel brings deep knowledge and experience and highly informed judgment to her new position. I look forward to serving with her in the public interest."In her own words, Rosenworcel has spent her time at the FCC working to promote greater opportunity, accessibility, and affordability in our communications services in order to ensure that all Americans get a fair shot at 21st century success. From fighting to protect net neutrality to ensuring access to the internet for students caught in the Homework Gap, she has been a consistent champion for connecting all. She is a leader in spectrum policy, developing new ways to support wireless services from Wi-Fi to video and the internet of things.

Some may know Chairwoman Rosenworcel for her often-used statement, "I believe the future belongs to the connected." But she also has said "I also believe the future belongs to the bold....So I believe we need big broadband goals." She supports raising the benchmark speeds for broadband service from today's 25 Mbps/3 Mbps to 100 Megabits "and Gigabit speed should be in our sights." In 2016, she said, "I believe anything short of goals like this shortchanges our children, our future, and our digital economy."In addition to championing awareness and solutions to the Homework Gap, Rosenworcel has prioritized better access to broadband in rural areas with high maternal mortality rates and poor internet access to help women who live far from an obstetric center to receive care. And Rosenworcel used her platform as a commissioner to elevate women in technology, launching the first podcast from any regulatory agency in the U.S., Broadband Conversations, where she exclusively interviews women in the field. 

Earlier this week, Rosenworcel said, "[I]t has become painfully clear there are too many people in the United States who lack access to broadband. In fact, if this crisis has revealed anything, it is the hard truth that the digital divide is very real and very big."

On Thursday, President Biden encouraged the FCC to increase connectivity options for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely. In the last year, Rosenworcel has been at odds with former-FCC Chairman Ajit Pai who argued that E-rate support is meant only for classroom use, even at a time when kids are still learning from home as a result of the pandemic.

“She firmly believes E-Rate funding should, and can, be used to provide home connectivity for students for distance learning,” said Greg Guice, the director of government affairs for Public Knowledge. The Washington Post Editorial Board endorsed the idea on Thursday.

NTIA Acting Chief Evelyn Remaley

Admittedly we first saw this news in a Tweet from Politico reporter John Hendel, but the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's website confirms that Evelyn Remaley is the new Acting-Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information. 

Evelyn Remaley, NTIA

Most recently, Remaley served as NTIA's Associate Administrator for Policy Analysis and Development. In that role, Remaley led a team of experts providing senior policy support to the head of the NTIA (when it had one during the Trump administration), the Secretary of Commerce, and the White House on issues impacting the Internet and digital economy. In addition, Remaley led the Department’s Cybersecurity Policy efforts.

Remaley's portfolio included work on the full scope of critical digital policy issues including cybersecurity, supply chain risk management, privacy, the free flow of information, encryption, and the Internet of Things. Her team focused on pursuing policies that bolster the digital economy, while protecting citizens, and worked to expand the policy conversation beyond Washington to reach a full spectrum of Internet ecosystem players. 

In June 2020, Remaley announced NTIA's release of Internet Use Survey data showing that nearly 4 out of 5 Americans were using the Internet by November 2019, and are increasingly using a larger and more varied range of devices.

Prior to her work within the federal government, Remaley led a Cybersecurity and Internet Policy Team at Booz Allen Hamilton. There she oversaw efforts and provided subject matter expertise supporting a wide range of cyber policy and governance projects for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Prior to her time at Booz Allen, Remaley worked for a leading Internet service provider in its Internet Privacy and Security Federal Practice and spent time deploying the Internet across communities through her work with public libraries. 

FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter

Rebecca Kelly Slaughter

Finally, President Biden designated Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as Acting Chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Slaughter has served as an FTC Commissioner since May 2018. As a Commissioner, Slaughter has been an advocate for greater resources for the FTC and promoted equity and inclusion efforts. She has championed aggressive use of the FTC’s authorities. She has also been particularly outspoken about combatting systemic racism, growing threats to competition, and the broad abuse of consumers’ data. Before joining the FTC, Chairwoman Slaughter served as Chief Counsel to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), now the Senate Majority Leader.

“I am deeply honored and grateful to lead an agency that is critical to helping the U.S. economy get back on its feet and function more fairly for all Americans,” Slaughter said. “I want to express my sincere appreciation for the excellent leadership of Chairman Simons during a time of unprecedented challenges.”

Readers may not always associate the FTC with broadband. The FTC works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. In 2019, the FTC began an investigation of how broadband companies collect, retain, use, and disclose information about consumers and their devices. A bit more (in)famously, the FCC decided in 2017 that it did not have jurisdiction over broadband internet access service, finding that the FTC was best suited to protect broadband consumers. The agencies entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) under which the two agencies would coordinate online consumer protection efforts following the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order which repealed the FCC's net neutrality rules. Under the MOU:

  • The FCC reviews informal complaints concerning the compliance of Internet service providers (ISPs) with the disclosure obligations set forth in the Restoring Internet Freedom Order's transparency rule. Those obligations include publicly providing information concerning an ISP’s practices with respect to blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and congestion management. Should an ISP fail to make the required disclosures—either in whole or in part—the FCC will take enforcement action.
  • The FTC investigates ISPs concerning the accuracy of those disclosures, as well as other deceptive or unfair acts or practices involving their broadband services.
  • The FCC and the FTC share legal and technical expertise, including the informal complaints regarding the subject matter of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order

Net neutrality just might be an issue again in the Biden administration so, you know, watch this space.

Just Acting?

The Biden administration has huge, immediate goals: control the COVID-19 pandemic, provide economic relief, tackle climate change, and advance racial equity and civil rights, as well as immediate actions to reform our immigration system and restore America’s standing in the world. And the Senate has been slow to begin hearings and confirm the President's picks for top Cabinet spots. All to say that there is an incredible logjam right now in filling administration jobs and starting work on bringing broadband to all Americans. But first steps were taken this week. Steps in the right direction. And, as the Washington Post editorialized yesterday, "every step closer is a victory."

Quick Bits

Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)

ICYMI from Benton

Upcoming Events

Jan 26-27 -- 17th Annual State of the Net Conference (Internet Education Foundation)

Jan 26 -- Nomination Hearing: Gina Raimondo to be Secretary of Department of Commerce (Senate Commerce Committee)

Jan 26 -- 2021 Industry Outlook (Render)

Jan 27 -- Tools for Broadband: Mapping the Rural Broadband Buildout (Broadband Breakfast)

Jan 28 -- The National Strategy To Secure 5G Industry Listening (NTIA)



The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
727 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
headlines AT benton DOT org

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Broadband Delivers Opportunities and Strengthens Communities

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