A number of unions have called on President Biden to name acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel to the permanent position, saying the commission is understaffed and has a lot of work to do that needs a full commission and a full-time chair.
That came in a letter to the President citing her accomplishments and suggesting that there should be no further delay in naming a chair--and a third Democratic commissioner--given the big issues on the FCC's plate.
Also Read: Groups Push Biden for Fifth FCC Commissioner
"On behalf of our almost 8 million members, we urge you to quickly appoint acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel to permanent chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and fill the remaining Democratic commissioner seat with a nominee who has a deep commitment to workers in the telecommunications industry and who understands broadband issues important to workers, students, families, and consumers," they wrote.
They said Rosenworcel had worked "quickly and effectively" in her capacity as acting chair to help consumers deal with the pandemic and to close the digital divide. As evidence they cited the FCC's ramping up of the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the Emergency Connectivity Fund, both mandated by Congress.
"Acting chair Rosenworcel has also demonstrated her ability to find common ground with her colleagues to enact important policy at the FCC," they added.
Sending the letter were the American Federation of Teachers , the Communications Workers of America; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the National Education Association; and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
It has been almost six months since Biden came into office and Washington watchers have recently begun to scratch their heads over the delay in naming a chair.
The Congressional Black Caucus early on endorsed Democratic commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who is African American, for the center seat, and given that the endorsement of Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) gave essential oxygen to the Biden campaign, many thought deciding between Rosenworcel and Starks could be the hold-up.
Also Read: Pressure Builds for Biden to Name Permanent FCC Chair
There have been longer acting chairmanships, including Clyburn's daughter, Mignon, and James Quello. Rosenworcel's former boss, Mike Copps, was acting chair for almost six months as well.
Names reportedly being considered for the third Democratic seat include former top advisor to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Gigi Sohn; Edward “Smitty” Smith, a partner at law firm DLA Piper who has experience with overseeing multibillion-dollar broadband subsidies at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and at the FCC; and Anna Gomez of D.C. powerhouse law firm Wiley.
The FCC is currently locked in a 2-2 political tie. Past chairs have pointed out that pointed out that the vast majority of the agency’s decisions are unanimous, but that doesn't change the fact that many of the highest-profile rulings, like on media ownership deregulation, broadband subsidy programs and net neutrality regulations, are not.
The FCC has just been officially asked to restore the net neutrality rules, so that proceeding has already been teed up.
And while the unions point out in their letter that Rosenworcel has been able to find common ground, her focus has clearly been on items that could get Republican support, since those are the only ones that could be approved.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
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.