WASHINGTON, June 21, 2023 – At the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday, commissioners fought claims that its political deadlock limits its effectiveness.
“Many have attempted to characterize the commission as deadlocked,” said FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington in his opening remarks. “But the facts reveal the opposite: a commission laser focused on serving the public interest and faithfully implementing congressional mandates.”
Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel highlighted 10 focus areas of the FCC over the past year, which included its efforts in developing and promoting the Affordable Connectivity Program, producing the National Broadband Map, securing communications from bad actors, and finding ways to use spectrum to support future communications.
Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone, D-N.J., praised the FCC for its work in those areas, stating that its progress is “critical” to the expansion of high-speed internet across the nation.
“Fortunately, the lack of a full commission has not stopped the FCC from tackling important issues,” said Pallone, calling the agency’s efforts an “impressive bipartisan work.”
“I’m proud of the work we’ve been able to accomplish as a four-member agency,” said Rosenworcel, while expressing her anticipation for a fifth commissioner. President Joe Biden announced in May his nomination of telecommunications attorney Anna Gomez as commissioner of the FCC, following Gigi Sohn’s withdrawal from consideration in March.
Spectrum authority and rip and replace
Once again, commissioners urged Congress to renew the FCC’s authority to auction the airwaves essential for the deployment of wireless technologies, which expired on March 9 for the first time in its thirty-year history.
“Restoring this authority will provide the United States with the strongest foundation to compete in a global economy, counter our adversaries’ technology ambitions, and safeguard our national security,” said Rosenworcel, urging that the authority be renewed before the International Telecommunications Conference in Egypt in July.
The Spectrum Auction Reauthorization Act introduced in May would restore the agency’s spectrum auction authority for another three years. It would also add just over $3 billion to the “rip and replace” program, which funds the replacement of compromised infrastructure in network builds from Chinese providers.
Commissioner Brendan Carr expressed his support of the bill, claiming that there will be “severe consequences” if the rip and replace program is not fully funded. He warned that not funding the program will ensure that some small rural internet service providers will go out of business while others will have large gaps in coverage.
Rosenworcel added her support, claiming that Congress needs to take action to remove harmful equipment from American networks for the nation’s security.
“We must continue to work together to address this ongoing threat and finalize our remediation process,” added Geoffrey Starks in his comments, claiming that the rip and replace program is essential to keeping American networks secure.