As an advocate for broadband for everybody, Rosenworcel is Biden's option to direct FCC sources

© Reuters. Jessica Rosenworcel answers a question during a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation regulatory hearing for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, the United States, June 24, 2020. Jonathan Newton / Pool via REU

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Jessica Rosenworcel, an advocate for broadband access for low-income American households, is President Joe Biden's election to the permanent chair of the Federal Communications Commission, three people who were briefed on the matter told Reuters.

As a Democrat, already serving as FCC vice chairman under Biden, she is expected to receive Senate approval for a new term from the five-member telecom regulator after officially nominating her and, like Biden's election, the first woman who acts as a permanent employee becomes an armchair.

Biden has waited more than nine months for nominations for the FCC which failed to resolve some issues as it currently has a vacancy and is split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans.

For the open seat, Biden plans to nominate Gigi Sohn, a former senior assistant to Tom Wheeler who served as FCC chairman under President Barack Obama, a Democrat, sources said.

Rosenworcel oversaw the FCC's $ 3.2 billion temporary broadband subsidy program, launched by Congress in December, to provide discounts on monthly Internet services and laptop purchases to more than six million lower-income American households or people affected by COVID-19 or tablet computers.

She said the lack of broadband access creates a "homework gap" for lower-income Americans as most teachers assign homework that requires internet access.

Sources said Biden will appoint Alan Davidson, a senior advisor at Mozilla, as director of the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the executive agency primarily responsible for advising the White House on telecommunications and information policy issues.

Last month, a group of 25 U.S. Senators wrote to Biden to endorse Rosenworcel, a former Senate employee, for a new term and chairmanship. They wrote, "Further delays will unnecessarily jeopardize our common goal of achieving ubiquitous broadband connectivity."

Rosenworcel and her staff did not respond late Monday to requests for comments on the announcement expected on Tuesday. Without having confirmed a new term of office, Rosenworcel would have to leave the FCC at the end of the year.

She said the FCC decision in 2017 under then Republican President Donald Trump to repeal net neutrality rules put the FCC "on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the American public."

The FCC under Obama, Trump's predecessor, passed the net neutrality rules in 2015, which prohibited Internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes.

Proponents of net neutrality say the protective measures ensure a free and open internet. Broadband and telecom trading groups claim their pre-internet legal base is out of date and discouraging investment.

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