How President-Elect Biden’s FCC could fix America’s internet

Coverage Type: 

Even though Joe Biden’s victory is assured, the future of the Federal Communications Commission hangs in the balance. Getting broadband internet in as many homes as possible during the pandemic is many Democrats’ most urgent goal, and one they feel the Trump administration failed to accomplish. “Because the Trump FCC failed to meaningfully address the digital divide, tens of millions of Americans still lack high-speed internet,” said Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA). “This worsens the impacts of the pandemic, and the Biden administration has to take this head-on.” She added: “Every person in our country must have high-speed internet. Period. We’ve failed for too long to expand access to rural and tribal areas, and too many urban communities can’t afford broadband.”

The Biden administration’s FCC can and likely will aid this effort by making the internet more affordable and accessible. This could involve providing more subsidies to lower-income people, continuing its work increasing broadband access, and opening up more radio frequency bands for high-speed 5G networks in order to bring the United States to the level of its peers. The agency is also poised to restore net neutrality and reclassify broadband internet as a Title II service, which would give the FCC more authority over carriers. Under the Biden administration, the agency will also probably let Trump’s anti-social media Section 230 rulemaking mission die.

With these goals in mind, Biden will get to pick a new FCC chair, who will do much to set the agency’s agenda. Beyond that, we don’t yet know who that chair will be, how many of the five commissioner seats will be available to be filled, or which party will have control of the Senate. A Republican-majority Senate may well make it much more difficult to confirm new commissioner appointments or refuse to vote on laws that could provide funding needed for Democrat-chaired FCC initiatives. Experts and FCC insiders said they foresee a Biden FCC that goes back to trying to govern and reclaims some of the authority it ceded under President Trump. And the FCC’s glass ceiling may finally break with the first chairwoman in its 86-year history.

How Biden’s FCC could fix America’s internet