President Biden faces looming deadline for FCC pick as acting chair's term winds down

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Since January, the Federal Communications Commission has been deadlocked in a 2-2 partisan split, and the White House has yet to nominate a new commissioner to complete the agency's typical five-person lineup. With Congress about to emerge from its August recess, President Joe Biden has four months before the end of the calendar year to make a pick. Policy experts indicated that September is a reasonable time to expect an announcement, notably when the House of Representatives votes on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. The commission has a mounting to-do list ahead of it, with items stemming both from executive orders from the White House and a long-term broadband subsidy making its way through the House. President Biden must soon announce a nominee if the commission is to have any hope of tackling more ambitious — and contentious — policy items like restoring net neutrality protections or spurring competition in the broadband market, policy experts said. But the current vacancy is not the only pending empty seat. FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel's term is already running on overtime. Rosenworcel, who served as a commissioner under former Chairman Ajit Pai in the Trump administration, saw her term expire June 30, 2020. Since that time, she has been serving under a grace period known as a "holdover" that ends either when a replacement is confirmed or at the end of the congressional session the following year. Unless she is reconfirmed, she will have to leave the commission in January 2022.

"The delay is very problematic," said Andrew Schwartzman, senior counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, adding that the slow selection process may keep the agency from performing normal business such as spectrum auctions or broadcast license renewals. For Schwartzman, many folks in the telecom space are "freaked out" about the selection delay, adding that the appointment gap seems "out of character" for the administration.

Biden faces looming deadline for FCC pick as acting chair's term winds down