Deadlocked FCC could derail President Biden's digital equity plans

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The Biden administration has charged the Federal Communications Commission with prohibiting digital discrimination — but without a third Democratic commissioner to break the agency's partisan deadlock, those plans are in trouble. One of President Biden's key domestic priorities, improving internet access and affordability, can't advance unless the Senate confirms his FCC nominee. The FCC has been deadlocked at 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans since Biden took office, and his nominee for the third seat, Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society], has been awaiting a Senate vote for months amid Republican opposition. The agency is required by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to craft rules preventing digital discrimination on broadband access. The rules would prohibit internet service providers such as Comcast or Verizon from deployment discrimination based on the income level or predominant race or ethnicity of the people living in an area. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel launched an inquiry in March, with support from the agency's Republicans, on how to create rules preventing digital discrimination and facilitating equal access to high-speed internet. A major question is how the agency will interpret a part of the law that says the rules should take into account issues of "technical and economic feasibility." Advocates fear Republicans at the agency will use that exception to render new rules meaningless and say Rosenworcel will need Democratic support to craft aggressive rules.

Deadlocked FCC could derail Biden's digital equity plans