The FCC is whole again with the Senate’s confirmation of Anna Gomez as the agency’s fifth commissioner, empowering it to take more and faster action regarding all matters regulatory in communication and, increasingly, space.
Gomez was nominated to the seat in June after a year and half of Republican resistance to the previous candidate, Gigi Sohn, on dubious grounds. Once sworn in, she will be the third Democratic commissioner at the agency, which by design is split 3:2 in favor of the administration’s party.
Following the unpopular tenure of Ajit Pai during Trump’s years in office, the FCC has been led by Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who has focused on improving broadband access and updating space-related rules. But without a full count of commissioners, the agency has been limited in what it can accomplish: any issue with political baggage, like net neutrality, would face a 2:2 deadlock.
While the FCC has accomplished what it can under the circumstances, the rules under its purview are blessedly less partisan than many others, and everyone there seems to agree, for instance, that broadband should be cheaper and better across the country.
With the confirmation of Gomez — over the loud and still dubious objections of the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) — the FCC is able to operate as it was intended to: as an independent expert agency working with, but not for, the rest of the executive branch.
Gomez’s soon-to-be colleagues chimed in with warm welcomes via official statements, but there is no mention of what her vote will help accomplish. 2016 through 2020 saw the rollback of net neutrality rules and lightening of regulations on the communications sector, like mobile and broadband providers. With a full count, Rosenworcel’s FCC could reinstate some of those rules with bolstered legal support (net neutrality was overturned on pretty thin grounds), or take advantage of a newly skeptical climate in the tech world to write new broadband privacy regulations.
That’s all to be determined, however, and it’s likely that we will hear more during the next FCC meeting (on September 21st) or via separate statements in days to come. That meeting already has a pretty full agenda, but no doubt they will find time to hint at what comes next.
Here’s what the other commissioners had to say on the occasion of Anna Gomez’s confirmation:
“As I said when she was nominated, Anna’s a true expert, and the depth of her experience will be an asset for the agency and the public we all serve.” -Commissioner Geoffrey Starks
“Ms. Gomez’s career demonstrates a longstanding commitment to public service…. I welcome her as a colleague and look forward to working together on policies that will protect consumers and promote the interests of all Americans.” -Commissioner Brendan Carr
“Ms. Gomez has dedicated much of her career to public service and will no doubt continue to faithfully serve the public interest in her new role as Commissioner. I look forward to working with her.” -Commissioner Nathan Simington
And from Chairwoman Rosenworcel:
“Anna brings with her a wealth of telecommunications experience, a substantial record of public service, and a history of working to ensure the United States stays on the cutting edge of keeping us all connected. Her international expertise will be a real asset to the agency. I look forward to working with her to advance the agency’s mission to ensure the benefits of modern communications reach everyone, everywhere and that the United States can continue to lead in the digital age.”