President Obama has nominated Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Varadaraj Pai to the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel, a Democrat, will replace current Democrat Michael J. Copps, whom she previously served as an advisor, as his tenure ends this year. Pai, a Republican, will fill the empty seat created by Republican Meredith Attwell Baker who left last spring in order to take a position with Comcast.
While relatively young, both are experienced telecom policy experts.
Rosenworcel serves as a senior staffer to the Senate Commerce Committee. She has worked for the committee’s chairman, Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WV) since 2009 and has taken the lead on legislative proposal to bolster spectrum used by public safety and the private sector.
“Her experience here, combined with her current Congressional work, give her a perspective on telecom and media issues both wide and deep,” Copps said in a statement. “Her dedication, intelligence, and practical good judgment make her an ideal choice for commissioner.”
Pai is a partner at Jenner & Block. Previously, he served in the office of general counsel at the FCC for former chairman Kevin Martin. He has served as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and property rights.
Copps also lauded Pai for his experience and ability to navigate different topics deftly: “Ajit’s experience, both at the agency and on Capitol Hill, prepares him well for the many urgent telecom and media challenges confronting the Commission.”
Both Rosenworcel and Pai have long been rumored as candidates at the FCC. Before they can take their post both must be confirmed by the Senate. Some argue that the pairing of a Democrat and a Republican for agency posts has in the past smoothed the way for nominees in a divided Congress.
If approved, they will become commissioners on the five-member agency as the FCC transitions its policies away from legacy telecom services and into broadband Internet communications. The president appoints the commissioners to five-year terms. The Senate must confirm nominees, and only three of the five commissioners may be of the same political party. Given the support of Senate leadership for both nominees, the process is expected to go smoothly, and both could be confirmed by the end of this month.
According to theHill.com, the Commission has recently moved forward on several key proceedings, including a plan to shift the focus of the $4.5 billion high-cost portion of the Universal Service Fund from telephone to broadband expansion while reforming the intercarrier compensation system used to connect local calls.
Also on the docket for Rosenworcel and Pai, if confirmed, will be the Commission’s controversial net-neutrality rules. Passed last year the rules are scheduled to take effect later this month and have already drawn legal challenges from both the right and the left, with Republicans arguing the FCC overstepped its authority to regulate the Web and others demanding the rules also apply to wireless firms.
The FCC is also reviewing the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA so they will be busy.
Of the nominations Genachowski said, “In nominating Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai as FCC Commissioners, President Obama made two outstanding choices for the Commission and for the American people. Given their talent, leadership and expertise in our space, they would both play an invaluable role at the FCC.”