FCC takes one step closer to becoming functional again

OK, that was a click-baity headline. Forgive me. But it’s also not completely wrong.

Last week, the US Senate voted to confirm Jessica Rosenworcel as the first female chair of the FCC, and to offer her a five year term. Her term would otherwise have expired at the end of 2021, leaving only three members of what should be a five-person commission.

What’s left to do

The FCC has been only four members strong since January 20, 2021 when Chair Ajit Pai’s resignation took effect. It’s common practice for an FCC chair to resign if the incoming President is of a different party than they are. Both sides do it. Keep in mind that the FCC is part of the Executive Branch, and therefore is accountable to the President.

Because this is just how government works, the commissioners still must be confirmed by Congress even though they belong to a different branch of government. It’s just how that works.

Unfortunately the fifth potential member of the FCC, Gigi Sohn, is unlikely to be confirmed by Congress before the winter break. I don’t think this is surprising to anyone. That’s just sorta how things work now. Or don’t work.

Until the commission has its full five members, it will be comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans, meaning that its role will continue to be limited to the least controversial actions possible.

What needs to be happening right now

As I tend to say, this isn’t that kind of blog. We don’t talk too much politics. I’ll stretch that a bit by saying that I would like to think that any public official would take their responsibility seriously. Even if you don’t agree with them, you’d hopefully be able to believe that they’re doing what they think is best. And, in the case of the FCC, there’s a lot that needs to be done. It’s not really a partisan place, at least it shouldn’t be. We need more understanding of how 5G fits into our futures. We need to strengthen our infrastructure against foreign intervention. As I’ve said numerous times, we need action on the next generation of TV broadcasting. Without a full complement of five commissioners, none of that can really happen.

Looking forward

I hope that Congress acts quickly on the matter of Gigi Sohn when they return from break. Until then, I look forward to FCC Chair Rosenworcel’s hard work on behalf of Americans.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.