The FCC is back up to its traditional five Commissioners after the confirmation of Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel.
Replacing the void which was left upon the resignation of former-Chairman Tom Wheeler, the appointments of Carr and Rosenworcel mean business is back to usual at the office. The confirmation of Democrat Rosenworcel was completely expected, lawmakers simply ran out of time to grant her another term, though in Carr, the Republicans have another dilatant who will effectively toe the party line and contribute to the downfall of net neutrality and the open internet.
“I congratulate Brendan and Jessica on their confirmations,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come.
“Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I’m pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency’s operations.”
Carr is a Republican, has previously worked as the lead advisor to Pai on wireless, public safety, and international issues, and prior to that he was he worked as an attorney in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel. Before the FCC, Carr was an attorney at Wiley Rein LLP, where he worked in the firm’s appellate, litigation, and telecom practices. When practising law in the courts, Carr was very much on the side of the telcos, handing trial and appellate court litigation for a variety of telecom clients, including appeals of FCC orders. It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out where he is going to sit on the net neutrality argument.
On the other hand, it is important to remember Tom Wheeler, the net neutrality champion, came from a similar background. Prior to the FCC, Wheeler was President of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, leading many to assume he would be a friendly face for the telcos. That didn’t seem to work out too well. That said, if you are a net neutrality supporter, we wouldn’t suggest getting your hopes up too high in this case.
What is also surprising is the amount of friction the FCC has been able to generate over the last couple of months considering they were down two bodies. Wheeler’s departure and Pai ascension, as well as the timing issues surrounding Rosenworcel’s confirmation, has meant the department has been operating with a skeleton crew of three Commissioners since the beginning of the year. Well done guys, now let’s see how much chaos you can cause with a full complement.
In terms of the Rosenworcel confirmation, this was a bit of a sly and canny move by the Republicans. Due to the election and delays in dealing with her position, Rosenworcel had to leave office at the turn of the year, before being re-nominated for another term by Barack Obama before he left the White House. President Trump then withdrew that nomination in March.
This is nothing to do with Rosenworcel, or some slight which the President has against her (though some might imagine this was the case due to past experience from the Chief), but purely a tactical move. The Republicans needed to ensure a majority on the Commissioners table while they found a suitable replacement for Pai. In delaying the Rosenworcel confirmation, a 2-1 majority was achieved meaning party political objectives didn’t see any delays.
Moving forward, these appointments are unlikely to change anything. The Republicans still have a majority, and Carr has been working for Pai to provide resistance to the rules for a while now. Rosenworcel will provide some effective opposition to Pai and his cronies, but there is a sense of holding back the tide here.