'Untidy' confirmation process likely as President Biden nominates FCC commissioners

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President Joe Biden is ready to fill some key vacancies at the Federal Communications Commission. The White House has nominated current Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel for permanent chair of the agency and Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] to sit as the third Democratic commissioner on the FCC. The nominations are not a surprise in the telecom world according to Blair Levin of New Street Research. Senate confirmations for the picks are still needed. Vice President of Policy and General Counsel at Free Press, Matt Wood, said he would not be surprised if Rosenworcel had a solo, fast-tracked hearing, given that her current term expired June 30, 2020. Levin said the confirmation process for the FCC picks is likely to be "untidy," but ultimately he expects both to get through. Biden has encouraged the FCC to reinstate net neutrality protections that prohibit broadband service providers from blocking or throttling legal internet traffic or prioritizing certain traffic for payment. To reinstate those protections, the FCC may seek to once again reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service, giving the agency more regulatory authority over broadband service providers. The Title II classification is controversial and unpopular among many in the broadband industry because it not only gives the FCC the regulatory authority to impose net neutrality rules, but it also technically enables the agency to regulate broadband rates. "We expect the issue to be brought up during the confirmation hearings and believe ... that either nominee saying that they think price regulation should be on the table could lead to significant problems in obtaining confirmation," Levin said.

'Untidy' confirmation process likely as Biden taps Rosenworcel, Sohn for FCC