Senate Committee Advances FCC Chair Nomination

Jessica Rosenworcel’s role as chair will next be considered by the full U.S. Senate. The committee also advanced a nomination for the FTC’s open commissioner seat.

12/06/2021 12:15 PM

4 minute read

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation voted to advance Jessica Rosenworcel’s nomination as chair of the Federal Communications Commission to the full Senate after a hearing Wednesday.

The committee also voted to advance the nomination of Alvaro Bedoya to serve on the Federal Trade Commission. Bedoya was nominated in place of Rohit Chopra after he started his term as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Rosenworcel has served as acting chair of the FCC since the resignation of Chair Ajit Pai in January, and she has served on the commission since 2012.

In meeting with Rosenworcel and other members of the FCC, ACA International has focused on modernizing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and ensuring the accounts receivable management industry can continue to reach consumers while also protecting consumers from illegal calls. In December 2020, ACA and joint industry trade groups met with Rosenworcel’s staff on call blocking and labeling protections, detailed in an earlier letter here.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Facebook v. Duguid on the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) was a significant step in having clarity on the topic. ACA worked for clarity on the definition of an ATDS in its advocacy for the FCC for many years and will continue to do so with new leadership.

ACA and its coalition partners also continue to monitor the FCC’s activity with the TCPA and mitigating robocalls as it implements components of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) required by Congress. However, it has not made any movement on the definition of an ATDS since the decision in ACA Int’l v. FCC.

Democrat leadership on the commission could cause stricter interpretations of the TCPA.

Unlike Pai, Rosenworcel has said the FCC’s 2016 order on the TCPA did not go far enough in restricting robocalls.

ACA also submitted a letter for the committee’s Dec. 1 hearing outlining the implications for call restrictions for consumers and businesses.

“As Congress reviews the nominations of the FCC commissioners, we ask that it consider this important issue with implications for the ARM industry,” said ACA CEO Mark Neeb in the letter. “When there are opaque rules or when the FCC does not narrowly tailor efforts to bad actors, consumers pay the price when they do not receive the information they want and need from legitimate callers.”

The Senate Commerce Committee also held a nomination hearing with Rosenworcel on Nov. 17, during which the members discussed “fast tracking” her nomination to the U.S. Senate.

“I think communications technologies today are the infrastructure of opportunity. These are the connections—physical and digital—that can strengthen our mutual bonds,” Rosenworcel said in her Nov. 17 testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. “They can grow our economy and create new jobs. They help us work, learn, be informed, enlightened, and entertained. And we also need these connections to break down barriers that for too long have held too many back.”

Commissioner Nomination

Biden nominated Gigi Sohn to serve in one of the Democrat commissioner seats; however, Sohn’s nomination has not advanced out of committee.

If Sohn is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the FCC will have a 3-2 Democratic majority. Geoffrey Starks serves in the remaining Democrat seat on the commission.

Sohn is currently a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate. Sohn also previously served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013-2016.

Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr was confirmed by the Senate to serve a five-year term starting in 2019. In August 2020, President Donald Trump revoked his nomination for Republican Michael O’Rielly to serve another term after a dust-up about proposals for the regulation of social media.

Nathan Simington was confirmed to serve in one of the Republican seats on the FCC in 2020.

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