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Biden announces long-awaited nominees for vacant FCC and NTIA posts

President Biden has officially lowered the temperature amongst industry stakeholders who have been in a state of distress over his delayed nominations to the FCC.

In a release from the White House today, the US president nominated Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn for the remaining two commissioner slots, with Rosenworcel designated as Chair.

Rosenworcel has served as Acting Chairwoman of the FCC since the start of the Biden administration. However, with her term as commissioner having lapsed last year, she will need to leave the agency if she is not confirmed before the end of the legislative year. Senate Democrats have repeatedly urged Biden to name her as Chair, pointing to her prior unanimous confirmation as evidence that she will face few obstacles with Senate Republicans.

If confirmed, Rosenworcel will be the FCC's first female Chair in the agency's history.

Sohn is no stranger to the FCC either, having served as Counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. In a statement today, Biden describes Sohn as "one of the nation's leading public advocates for open, affordable, and democratic communications networks."

"For over thirty years, Gigi has worked to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband Internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open, and protective of user privacy."

The statement also adds that Sohn would be the "first openly LGBTIQ+ Commissioner in the history of the FCC" – an intention which lines up with many of Biden's other appointments that seek to reflect the diversity of the country.

In a press release from the FCC, Rosenworcel said she is "deeply humbled" by the designation as Chair.

"It is an honor to work with my colleagues on the Commission and the agency's talented staff to ensure that no matter who you are or where you live, everyone has the connections they need to live, work, and learn in the digital age," said Rosenworcel.

In addition to nominations for the FCC spots, Biden also nominated Internet policy expert Alan Davidson for Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Davidson currently serves as senior advisor at the Mozilla Foundation. Like Sohn, Davidson will be returning to a familiar office, after serving in the Department of Commerce in the Obama administration as the country's first Director of Digital Economy.

In a statement to the press, Claude Aiken, president and CEO of WISPA, cheered the nominations.

"WISPA is excited that President Joe Biden has nominated Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to Chairperson of the FCC; Gigi Sohn as FCC Commissioner; and Alan Davidson as head of the NTIA. Each person brings into these core positions years of experience, deep connections, and legal and administrative know-how. Importantly, with these agencies now at 'full power,' their work will surely benefit American consumers, our economy, as well as those who linger without competitive and evolving broadband solutions in the digital divide."

The Internet Innovation Alliance also released a statement in support, saying "IIA looks forward to supporting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and to partnering with Commissioner Sohn on internet issues that affect Americans' quality of life and U.S. global competitiveness. Achieving universal broadband availability and adoption, and upholding the bipartisan framework that helped the internet flourish for a quarter century, are critical to America's future prosperity."

The Senate still needs to hold hearings and a vote to confirm Rosenworcel, Sohn and Davidson to their posts. With the body mired in final negotiations over the president's Build Back Better legislation, and experiencing historic levels of dysfunction, industry stakeholders have been worried that time was running out to get FCC commissioners confirmed in time, lest the body fall to Republican control. While today's nominations should usher in a sigh of relief, all eyes are now on the US Senate to finish the job.

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— Nicole Ferraro, site editor, Broadband World News; senior editor, global broadband coverage, Light Reading. Host of "The Divide" and "What's the Story?" on the Light Reading Podcast

A version of this story first appeared on Broadband World News.

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