U.S. Senate to hold confirmation hearing on Biden FCC pick

Credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for a new term for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, but Democrats will remain short of a majority in the telecommunications regulator.

Late last month, Biden nominated Rosenworcel for a new term on the five-member commission and designated her chair.

Biden also nominated Gigi Sohn, a former senior aide to Tom Wheeler who served as an FCC chairman under President Barack Obama, to an open seat. The Commerce Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing on Sohn's nomination.

Biden waited more than nine months to make nominations for the FCC, which has not been able to address some key issues because it currently has one vacancy and is split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans.

The committee has not scheduled a hearing on the nomination of Alan Davidson, a senior adviser at Mozilla, to head the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the executive branch agency principally responsible for advising the White House on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA will oversee more than $42 billion in funding approved this month by Congress to expand internet access.

Without being confirmed to a new term, Rosenworcel would need to leave the FCC next month.

One key issue is whether the FCC under Democrats will reinstate landmark net neutrality rules that were repealed under Trump.

The FCC under President Barack Obama, Trump's predecessor, adopted net neutrality rules in 2015 barring internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes.

The FCC will also oversee $14.2 billion in new funding from Congress to provide a new permanent $30 per month voucher for low-income families to use toward any internet service plan.

The new program builds on a $3.2 billion temporary COVID-19 pandemic program currently used by 7.6 million U.S. households and provides a $50-a- month subsidy. The new program expands eligibility to more low-income households but will reduce benefits by $20 a month starting in March.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

((David.Shepardson@thomsonreuters.com; 2028988324;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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