Open RAN fan Rosenworcel is new head of the FCC

Open RAN fan Rosenworcel is new head of the FCC

Rosenworcel at ITU.jpg

President Joe Biden has confirmed Jessica Rosenworcel as the person who will chair the US telecoms regulator.

She is designated acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as she will have to be confirmed by the Senate after a hearing.

Rosenworcel (pictured) said last night: “I am honoured to be designated as the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden. I thank the President for the opportunity to lead an agency with such a vital mission and talented staff. It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age.”

Her colleagues moved quickly to congratulate her. Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, a fellow Democrat who had been seen as a possible rival, said: “For many years, Jessica has been a passionate advocate for bringing the benefits of broadband to all Americans — particularly our children. Her designation comes at a critical juncture for the Commission, as Covid-19 has made bold action to end internet inequality more vital than ever.”

Rosenworcel is a passionate advocate of net neutrality, to principle that internet service providers should not give preference or restrict certain types of traffic. This was part of internet custom for decades and was put into law by President Barack Obama, but overturned by President Donald Trump.

The policy features in only the second paragraph of her official FCC biography: “From fighting to protect net neutrality to ensuring access to the internet for students caught in the Homework Gap, Jessica has been a consistent champion for connecting all,” it says.

“She is a leader in spectrum policy, developing new ways to support wireless services from Wifi to video and the internet of things. She also is responsible for developing policies to help expand the reach of broadband to schools, libraries, hospitals, and households across the country.”

Apart from her actions to promote the use of telecoms in education, she has also been an advocate for open radio access networks (open RAN or O-RAN). In September 2020 she said at a conference: “I was actually the first commissioner at the agency to speak about the power of open radio access networks — more than a year ago.”

She said last year: “Open RAN has extraordinary potential for our economy and national security. That combination is something to seize—especially right now in the early days of 5G wireless deployment.”

Rosenworcel added: “We must focus now on our competitiveness, on strengthening our alliances around the world, and on reasserting our values — by building a new market for 5G equipment. That is how we will restore American leadership and secure 5G.”

The FCC is one member down following this week’s departure of Ajit Pai, who chaired the regulator until he stepped down on inauguration day on Wednesday. He was a Republican — US tradition being that the chair of the FCC shares the incumbent president’s party.

Biden’s team will now be looking for a fifth member, a Democrat, to give the ruling party a three-two majority.

Fortunately since the November election there have been no shortage of likely candidates, people such as Mignon Clyburn, a former commissioner who was part of the Biden transition team looking at the FCC.

Other transition team members were Edward Smith, a lawyer with DLA Piper who specialises in wireless and satellite technology, and had also been suggested as a possible chair, plus John Williams, counsel to the House of Representatives judiciary committee, and Paul de Sa, a former partner with consulting firm McKinsey.

Before going into the public sector, Rosenworcel practiced communications law in Washington law firm Drinker Biddle and Reath, now Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath. She was later senior communications counsel for the US Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation.

Gift this article