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FCC's Jessica Rosenworcel: Time to Think Big, and Act

FCC's acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel

Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel's first public meeting in the center seat will consist of status reports on works in progress responsive to the Congress' passage of the COVID-19 aid package.

The meeting will consist of four presentations and two rulemakings.

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The presentations will be on the status of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Fund. The FCC has 60 days to come with a process for handing out $3.2 billion in broadband subsidies for low-income residents. " It means more people can work online or seek jobs online, more students can take classes online, and more patients can consult with their healthcare providers online," Rosenworcel said in outlining the agenda for the Feb. 17 meeting.

Then the FCC will outline another congressional mandate with money attached, the $249.95 million to expand telehealth. 

The third presentation will be on improving broadband mapping, something Congress mandated--and finally funded--by the FCC was already working on. It is something Rosenworcel has long pushed, saying there needed to be "maps before money. "[F]or too long, the FCC has lacked the data it needs about precisely where service is and is not throughout the country," she said. "The good news is that Congress just appropriated $65 million to help the agency develop better data for improved maps so we can get started on this in earnest."

The rulemakings will seek comment on 911 fee diversion, where states getting money for 911 from fees on resident's phone bills have diverted it to other purposes, and aligning the FCC's rules with changes to the Secure and Trusted Networks Act that were made in the appropriations bill. 

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"Our challenge now is to couple Congress’s vision with strategies for successful implementation, so we’re going to hit the ground running," said Rosenworcel. "It’s not time to think small—and we can’t afford to act slowly either."

It will also be a time to find consensus on any items to be voted since the commission will be at a 2-2 tie until President Biden can nominate and the Senate confirm a third Democrat, either as chair of commissioner.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.