US President Joe Biden to name Jessica Rosenworcel as FCC’s first female leader

Jessica Rosenworcel, the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

could become the first woman to lead the agency after president Joe Biden announced his intent to make her position permanent.

The FCC promotes competition among providers, scrutinises mergers between telecommunications and broadcast companies, and regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.

If she is confirmed by the Senate, Ms Rosenworcel would lead the agency whose responsibilities include ensuring that millions of Americans have internet access.

Rosenworcel, 50, campaigned tirelessly for the permanent job, with female members of Congress, five labour unions, 14 human rights groups and two dozen Senate Democrats lobbying president Biden to nominate her.

In a recent interview with the New York Times about leading the commission, Ms. Rosenworcel said, “It’s the future of our economy, and I think we have to make sure across the board that women are represented, including at the top.”

President Biden also named Gigi Sohn to the seat on the five-member commission when Rosenworcel became the acting chairwoman.

Ms Sohn, a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, served from 2013 to 2016 as counsellor to Tom Wheeler, a former FCC chairman. If confirmed by the Senate, Sohn would be the FCC’s first openly LGBTQ commissioner, the White House said in its announcement.

Mr Biden has come under pressure in recent weeks to fill the two open spots at the FCC and both positions need to be confirmed by the Senate, albeit a long process.

If Ms. Rosenworcel and the next member of the commission are not confirmed before the end of the year, Republicans could gain a de facto majority. The commission is currently deadlocked, with two Democratic and two Republican members.

Furthermore, if Ms Rosenworcel is not confirmed before her term ends at the end of year, she would have to rotate off the commission while awaiting Senate approval.

Ms Rosenworcel said one her the commission's top priorities is narrowing the “homework gap,” the educational disadvantage experienced by students who lack internet at home.

“We’re getting a lot done, even though we are shy a member,” she said. “I’m proud of that record and appreciate that my colleagues have been willing to work with me.”

Who is Jessica Rosenworcel?

Born in Connecticut, Jessica Rosenworcel attended Wesleyan University and New York University Law School. In 2001, she joined the staff of the FCC commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, rising to senior adviser.

After six years, she left the commission for Capitol Hill, serving as the senior counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee. She returned to the FCC in 2011 as President Barack Obama’s nominee to the commission, and she was reappointed by President Donald J. Trump in 2017.