Is An FCC Stalemate In The Works?


Radio industry C-Suiters may wish to turn their attention to the Nation’s Capital, where a coalition of free-market groups focused on technology policy have voiced their opinion on the future of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, and the possibility of a deadlocked Commission well into the Trump presidency.

TechFreedom, led by President Berin Szóka, urged the U.S. Senate to vote on Rosenworcel’s renomination “as early as possible in the new Congress, along with reconfirming Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai and confirming a third Republican Commissioner.”

What TechFreedom does not want is to reconfirm her now.

“Doing so would, at a minimum, ensure a 2-2 deadlock on the Commission well into 2017,” Szóka warns.

Should FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler ultimately fail to resign, and step into the role of a Commissioner, it would allow Democrats to maintain control through June — something the incoming Trump administration and Congressional Republicans don’t want.

The result: paralysis of the FCC.

A reconfirmation of Rosenworcel now “would significantly delay long-overdue reforms of the agency, and could even cause Congress to miss a narrow window in which to make such reforms permanent through bipartisan legislation,” Szóka says.

“‘Elections have consequences’, as Chairman Wheeler himself crowed last summer,” Szóka said. “The American people ‘have chosen their path,’ and Republicans have every right to take control of the FCC on Inauguration Day. This isn’t partisanship — it’s simply democracy at work. Wheeler should, like nearly all FCC chairmen before him in this situation, resign on or before Inauguration Day. This will allow the acting Republican chairman to begin fixing the FCC’s broken processes. That includes starting the public comment cycle on institutional reforms that require lengthy notice and comment. If Wheeler hangs on, history will remember him as a hardened obstructionist and, worse, a hypocrite.”

Meanwhile, despite the vast differences on policy matters between TechFreedom and Rosenworcel, Szóka says, “We have respected her integrity and independence. But, there is simply no way to reconfirm her now without creating an imbalanced or deadlocked commission.”


TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank.