President Biden has done the expected, appointing Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat and longest tenured Commissioner, as interim Chairwoman of the FCC. She has already served eight years, starting in 2012, and is only the second women to be named acting chair.
Her announcing press release touches on two of her main areas of interest, both of which in all probability will continue as a major part of her agenda going forward. She has long been a strong and consistent advocate of returning to Net Neutrality, while ending the Digital Divide.
These may be somewhat conflicting goals, however, as the Democrat Commission’s 2015 imposition of telecommunications regulation (with its net neutrality rules) on broadband providers depressed investment. The Republican Commission’s more recent return to less stringent information service provider standards saw broadband investment soar to record levels.
Whether Ms. Rosenworcel, or another Democrat, becomes permanent FCC Chairman, a return to net neutrality rules will in all probability reduce overall broadband investment. The new Commission will have to build on rules already in place to aid rural digital, or promulgate new programs and procedures, to close the still-wide gap between municipal and rural/remote/agrarian/tribal America.
We sincerely hope that the new FCC will take positive and creative steps to continue to close the digital divide.