That’s how long we’ve gone during the Biden administration without a fully staffed Federal Communications Commission and a Democratic majority.
But on Sept. 7 — after 32 months of frustrating delay and a vicious smear campaign against Biden’s first nominee — the Senate voted 55–43 to confirm Anna Gomez and give FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel the votes to get moving on a long slate of crucial priorities.
Gomez is a longtime FCC and NTIA staffer and sometime corporate lawyer with deep technical and policy knowledge. She’s also the first Latina to serve on the Commission since the Clinton administration. Based on our meetings with her and her years of public service, we have high hopes for what she can accomplish at the FCC.
And there’s a lot the FCC needs to do
Rosenworcel has done good work so far in a challenging situation — including advancing the Affordable Connectivity Program, using savvy maneuvers to sink a hedge-fund takeover of a major broadcaster, and cleaning up the mess Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai left behind. But it’s no secret that almost anything worth doing at the FCC takes a 3–2 vote — which is why the industries the FCC is supposed to regulate have worked so hard to maintain a deadlock.
We have a very short window to act. And we know from experience that big broadcasting, phone and cable companies — and their armies of lobbyists — will do everything they can to slow things down.
In other words: It’s go time.
It’s time to ramp up the public pressure and press attention on the agency, reinvigorate the coalitions that have successfully pushed the FCC to do good work before, rebuke the industry mouthpieces trying to derail the commissioners, and recreate the political conditions for them to take bold and meaningful actions to improve people’s lives.
Our top priorities will be:
- Restoring the FCC’s authority under Title II to safeguard Net Neutrality and protect broadband users. Now is the time to reinstate the Net Neutrality protections Pai and the Trump administration trashed. While California’s strong Net Neutrality law has helped avert disaster, we need clear rules to protect internet users everywhere. But the importance of Title II — which gives the FCC authority over all two-way “telecommunications services” — goes much further. It gives the agency the power to protect the public from privacy violations, extortionate rates, billing fraud, dwindling competition and all manner of shady behaviors.
- Making broadband affordable for all. One positive outcome of the pandemic period is that we’re no longer debating whether broadband is an essential utility. The FCC has a major role to play in ensuring that the billions for broadband the Biden administration invested actually reach those who need it most. This includes oversight of the Affordable Connectivity Program — which has already connected more than 20 million households who would otherwise struggle to afford high-speed internet. Unfortunately, unless Congress acts soon, the ACP will run out of money by next April. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Confronting digital discrimination. The Rosenworcel FCC is advancing new rules this fall that will bar broadband providers from discriminating. We’ll be pushing to strengthen broad protections and promote equal access to high-speed internet regardless of a person’s ZIP code, income level, ethnicity, race, religion or national origin. As detailed in comments Free Press filed earlier this year, this proceeding can confront providers’ predatory monopoly behavior, which has harmed lower-income and marginalized communities.
- Reckoning with the FCC’s history. Back in 2021, our Media 2070 project, with the support of dozens of civil-rights groups and 25 prominent members of Congress, first called on the FCC to study how its own actions have disproportionately harmed Black people and other people of color. This is an important, necessary and overdue first step to investigate the agency’s history of racism and begin the process of repair.
- Keeping the majority intact. While we’re relieved Gomez is on her way to the FCC, the Senate’s job isn’t done. At the top of its list should be the reconfirmation of Geoffrey Starks for a second term at the FCC. Starks has served with integrity, but if lawmakers don’t act before year’s end, he would be required to step down, plunging the FCC back into a logjam.
That’s a big to-do list with a small window to act before the next election. But our team is ready to go and win these crucial fights. Your support makes this work possible: Donate today.