What Was Said at the Nominations Hearing?

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to consider the nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel, to continue as a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (Rosenworcel also serves as chair of the FCC), and Alvaro Bedoya, to be a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. 

In prepared testimony, Chairwoman Rosenworcel said, "I think communications technologies today are the infrastructure of opportunity." She noted that "more than ever before, Americans count on the FCC to support the connections they need for work, learning, healthcare, and access to the information we require to make decisions about our lives, our communities, and our country." She said her guiding principles would be public safety; competition, which she said was the most effective way to foster innovation; and an “absolutely fierce commitment” to consumer protection.

Bedoya's testimony focused on privacy and consumer protection. he said that if he is confirmed "I want to make sure that the [FTC] is helping the people who need it the most." A former Senate committee staffer, Bedoya said, "What I learned from the Senate is that we may disagree, profoundly, even passionately. But we cannot let that get in the way of helping the American people."

Chairwoman Rosenworcel, also a former Senate staffer, got a warm reception. She has been confirmed by the Senate twice before for FCC commissioner. She did draw most of the questions on the day, however. Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the digital divide and Chairwoman Rosenworcel will be a leading figure in getting broadband to all Americans.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the minority leader and former chairman of the committee, said he was delighted and honored to introduce her as the first female chair of the FCC. He called Chairwoman Rosenworcel an energetic and effective champion of consumers and privacy and net neutrality. He said she had an extraordinary ability to frame complex issues in ways people can understand, like coining the term “homework gap.” 

Pressed by Sen Wicker on when the FCC would produce better broadband maps, Chairwoman Rosenworcel pointed out that the agency had, in August, published wireless service maps. As to wired broadband, she pointed to the FCC's lack of requisite computing power. Although the FCC recently took an important step by picking a key “broadband serviceable location fabric” technology provider, due to the government contracting process all of the losing applicants were challenging that decision, which would delay matters. She said the best time to produce better broadband maps would have been five years ago, with the second-best time being now.

On network neutrality, Chairwoman Rosenworcel said, "I continue to support it. The impact of the rollback in 2017 is broader than just net neutrality because it took the FCC away from oversight of broadband. ... We need some oversight because it's become such an essential service for day-to-day life." She declined to endorse Senator John Thune's (R-SD) suggestion that the FCC go to Congress before pursuing reinstatement of the 2015 rules. "I believe (the FCC) inherently has the authority," she told him. She said the FCC would have to open a traditional rulemaking process and hear public comment before voting to reinstate the rules. "Now more than ever, Americans actually need net neutrality," said Sen Ed Markey (D-MA). He announced during the hearing that he will introduce legislation to reclassify broadband as a Title II service, which would subject it to common-carrier rules, restore the FCC‘s oversight of broadband access and reverse the Republican FCC‘s elimination of net neutrality rules.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel said that "we need to think about a revamp" of how the Universal Service Fund is managed. However, she did not endorse any specific proposal, though she acknowledged FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr's proposal to bolster the USF through fees on Big Tech companies like Amazon. Rosenworcel said only that "we need to have a conversation" on updating the program.

What Was Said at the Nominations Hearing? Executive Session and Nominations Hearing (Senate Commerce Committee) FCC’s Rosenworcel Navigates Issue-Heavy Nomination Hearing (Broadcasting&Cable) FCC’s Rosenworcel Pledges to Re-Examine Video Programming Marketplace (Multichannel News) Biden pick to chair FCC affirms support for net neutrality (Reuters) Biden FCC nomination doesn’t waver in net neutrality support during confirmation hearing (Daily Dot) Rosenworcel mostly avoids specifics during FCC nomination hearing (Light Reading) Sen. Markey Will Introduce Bill to Reclassify Broadband Under Title II (Multichannel News) Biden’s FCC is still deadlocked, and net neutrality hangs in the balance (The Verge) Four key questions for Biden’s FTC, FCC nominees (Washington Post)