Political Pressure Might Be Pushing Biden to Finally Fill FCC Vacancy

The election loss in Virginia could be playing a role in Joe Biden finally filling an FCC vacancy. Should it have taken this long?

In 2017, FCC (Federal Communications Commission) chair, Ajit Pai, scrapped network neutrality. It was a stunning move that shook the whole world. Without those rules, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are free to effectively pick winners and losers in the Internet ecosystem. They would be free to block and throttle whoever they like and favour those that they do like (frequently their own controlled services). So, little wonder why network neutrality is a key pillar in a free and open Internet – and it underscores what a massive loss the 2017 decision was.

Fortunately, legal challenges and efforts by some states to enact their own network neutrality rules effectively stalled out the potential effects of the loss of network neutrality. As a result, the integrity of the open Internet was held in legal limbo. Fast forward to 2020 and the US seemingly started to come to their senses and voted for president Joe Biden. It was a landslide victory for Democrats who took every branch of government. No conspiracy theory or flimsy legal challenge could deny it.

For a lot of the more tech minded political watchers, the victory represented a potential return to sanity for a host of different issues. One of those issues is the issue of network neutrality. Things were looking promising with Ajit Pai leaving and Jessica Rosenworcel becoming interim chair. The makeup, however, was not complete. There still needs to be the nomination of another voting member to finally get control of the FCC. Otherwise, Republican’s could still overrule the Democrats votes and stop the restoration of network neutrality.

While there was certainly hope and optimism, it seemed as though silence largely took over. No nomination was forthcoming and the issue remained largely stalled at the FCC. It’s surprising given how important the issue ultimately is. This especially with how important the Internet proved to be thanks to COVID-19 and the ensuing heat wave and fires that ravaged both Canada and the US. The silence, however, seemingly continued on this important issue.

For some, it started to look like Democrats were basically kicking up their feet and thinking that all that was needed was to say “Donald Trump” to keep their positions in politics. The phrase “build back better” became little more than a catch phrase since there wasn’t actually a whole lot of building happening to begin with. Eventually, this ultimately started to have political ramifications.

In Virginia, Democrats faced a surprise loss to the Republicans. Apparently, building the country back up actually meant building up the country for voters. When they didn’t get what they were promised, it probably became harder to support that. Even Joe Biden remarked how Democrats need to focus on getting the things done that they said they were going to do.

Of course, while a lot of the focus was on the gridlock between Democrats on a new infrastructure bill, Biden is, of course, far from being completely innocent of the lack of action everyone now knows is the consequence of such a stunning election defeat. The lack of a nomination for the FCC being one thing he could get done, but never really got around to doing.

So, it is interesting that we are seeing reports about movement finally happening at the FCC. From CNBC:

President Joe Biden announced his nominees to the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, ending a wait for nominations that has been historically long.

In a press release, the White House said Biden would designate acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, to take on the role of permanent chair and nominate her to another term on the commission. He also will name former FCC official Gigi Sohn, another Democrat, to fill the agency’s fifth commissioner slot.

Biden is also expected to nominate Alan Davidson as assistant secretary for communications and information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Rosenworcel, who can take on her new role immediately since she already sits on the commission, will be the first female permanent chair of the agency. She must still be confirmed by the Senate to a new term. Sohn would become the first openly LGBTIQ+ commissioner, if confirmed, the White House said.

For a lot of critics seeing this, this nomination took way too long to accomplish. What’s worse is that the FCC lost all this time to fix the critical issue of restoring network neutrality. There’s now only a little more than two years to try and get started on these key issues. Who knows what kind of delays will happen at the FCC when Democrats finally start pushing for the restoration of network neutrality. How long will it take to put together a plan to restore network neutrality?

What’s more is that it really shouldn’t have taken the prospect of losing an election to push forward something like network neutrality in the first place. Yet, here we are with a surprise loss to Republican’s before we finally saw action on this front. There had to have been signs just prior to the election that Democratic fortunes were starting to slip.

It’s, of course, still promising that the US will still be able to restore network neutrality, it’s just annoying for a lot that it took so long and so much pressure just to get this process started.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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