Senate Confirms FCC Appointees

The FCC is back up to full strength for the first time in the Trump administration. Take a look at what this means for education technology.

by Susan Gentz / August 9, 2017 0
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

The FCC Is Back to Full Capacity

The Senate confirmed Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as commissioners. The FCC had only three commissioners since former Chairman Tom Wheeler stepped down at the end of the Obama administration, and the Senate failed to act on a nomination before the term expired.

Commissioner Carr will serve until the end of former Chairman Wheeler’s term, which will expire in June 2018. Carr served as a legal adviser to Chairman Ajit Pai and has worked at the agency for more than five years. He has a strong background in wireless policy and public safety.

Commissioner Rosenworcel was confirmed to fill the seat that she previously held. Her reappointment under President Obama got held up in a political battle on the Senate floor and her term expired before the Senate could confirm her appointment.

The Senate delayed confirming Pai for a full term, leaving this confirmation in question until after the August break. He will likely be confirmed for the full term as Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, the only body that must confirm presidential appointees.

What Does This Mean for Education?

There has been a sense of concern and urgency over what will happen with newly modernized E-Rate and Lifeline programs. The Center for Digital Education met with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly earlier this year, and he indicated that with so many competing priorities, these programs probably wouldn’t change. However, even knowing this, the ed tech community still has concerns that sweeping changes could be coming.

Rosenworcel, although now a member of the minority party, is beloved in Washington. In the past she received unanimous support during her confirmation and has support from the industry and members on Capitol Hill in both parties. She is also a staunch supporter of both E-Rate and Lifeline programs, and has spent a great deal of time working to modernize these programs. You can read comments here. She was also honored this year with the Community Builder Award from the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training. Having Rosenworcel serving again in the FCC gives E-Rate and Lifeline Program supporters a bit more peace of mind.

Closing the Digital Divide

The FCC often still runs along party-line votes, which means most controversial programs and policies pass with a vote of 3-2. Chairman Pai mentions the digital divide often, and shows closing the digital divide is a priority for him. Pai and Rosenworcel have different philosophies on the best way to do it, but our community should remain hopeful that the two different parties work well together to come up with a solution that is best for students, parents and the community.

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