Net Neutrality

Trump Names Democratic FCC Choice

Less than six months after she left the FCC, it looks like Jessica Rosenworcel will be returning to the US telecom agency as a Democratic commissioner.

In a decision announced quietly late last night, President Trump said he plans to re-nominate Rosenworcel for one of the two Democratic seats on the five-member Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , which is now controlled by a Republican majority. If the pick is confirmed by the Senate, Rosenworcel will return to the agency where she served for four years, only to depart at the end of last year after her first term expired. Although she was strongly supported by many congressional Democrats, including Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and received unanimous approval from the Senate Commerce Committee, Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) never brought her nomination for a second term to the Senate floor. (See FCC on the Verge of 2-2 Split.)

With the White House's announcement of the widely expected Rosenworcel pick, the big question is whether she will join the FCC as the second Democratic Commissioner if she's confirmed, or whether she might take over fellow Democrat Mignon Clyburn's spot. Clyburn, a long-time commissioner who briefly served as acting chairman a few years ago, will see her latest term expire at the end of this month.

Usually presidents nominate Republican and Democratic candidates for the FCC in tandem to boost their chances of approval by an increasingly partisan Senate. So Trump had been expected to name a Republican nominee along with Rosenworcel to bring the Commission, which now has just three commissioners, back up to full strength. The reported favorite for the empty Republican seat is Brendan Carr, currently the FCC's general counsel. But no Republican candidate has been announced yet.

The fact that Trump didn't do this is already stoking political speculation that he actually views Rosenworcel as a replacement for Clyburn, not a complement. If so, that would still leave the FCC with just three commissioners, two Republican and one Democratic. The White House has not yet said whether Trump will nominate Clyburn for another term.

Like Clyburn, Rosenworcel had been a strong supporter of net neutrality, and she voted for the Open Internet Order drafted by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler two years ago. So now, like Clyburn, she will likely battle with new Chairman Ajit Pai, who is seeking to scrap the order and eliminate the Commission's strict Title II regulations for broadband providers. (See Is Pai Filling FCC Role? and Net Neutrality, Here We Go Again.)

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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