Jessica Rosenworcel To Serve As Acting FCC Chairwoman

Jessica Rosenworcel
Jessica Rosenworcel AP Images

Jessica Rosenworcel will serve as the acting chairwoman of the FCC, filling the slot after the departure of Ajit Pai this week.

“I am honored to be designated as the Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden,” Rosenworcel said in a statement Thursday. “I thank the president for the opportunity to lead an agency with such a vital mission and talented staff. It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age.”

The FCC still will be split 2-2 between the two parties until a Biden nominee is confirmed to fill a vacancy. That would leave the agency in a stalemate on issues like net neutrality, which has long been a top communications priority among Democrats.

As the senior Democrat on the commission, Rosenworcel, 49, had been a leading contender to serve as a chair. She is only the second woman to serve as acting chair, following Mignon Clyburn in 2013. No woman has ever led the agency on a permanent basis, and there is a lot of anticipation that Biden will want to change that.

Rosenworcel was first confirmed to the commission in 2012, and served until January 2017. She was confirmed for an additional term in August that same year.

In the past four years, Rosenworcel has been particularly vocal about some of the Republican-controlled commission’s rollbacks of regulation, including an Obama-era set of net neutrality rules and longtime restrictions on media companies’ ownership of broadcast stations. She also has championed greater broadband access, something that has been especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic, as schools moved their classes online. She also countered Trump’s attacks on the media, including in 2017 when the then-president called for challenging NBC’s license.

Before she joined the FCC, Rosenworcel served as senior communications counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee, then chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller. She also has practiced communications law in Washington.

Once Democrats take the 3-2 majority on the FCC, there is some expectation that they will move to restore the Obama-era net neutrality rules, a contentious process that has in the past put the agency in the national spotlight. When the rules were imposed in 2015 and reversed in 2017, John Oliver did segments for his HBO series, triggering a flood of comments to the FCC site.

Pai, who was appointed chairman by Donald Trump, resigned on Wednesday.

He wrote on Twitter, “Best wishes to the @FCC leadership under the new Administration! Their success will be America’s success. I’ll be rooting for them as they strive to advance the public interest. We’re all in it together!”

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