“This hearing will continue to advance our committee’s fulfillment of its constitutional charge to consider nominees appointed by the President for federal office,” said Thune. “The FCC has significant responsibilities over one of the most innovative sectors of our economy and I look forward to asking these qualified nominees about challenges to advancing the public interest.”
The nominees’ questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations.
- Ajit Varadaraj Pai, of Kansas, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission (Reappointment)
- Jessica Rosenworcel, of Connecticut, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission (Reappointment)
- Brendan Carr, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
This hearing will take place in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G50. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
Today we welcome three well-qualified nominees to testify before the Committee as we consider their nominations to serve as commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). I’d also like to welcome the families of the nominees who are here today.
While this is a confirmation hearing, given the issues we’ll be discussing and the extensive experience of the nominees, it will also serve as this Committee’s second FCC oversight hearing this year, fulfilling a commitment I’ve made to hold regular, biannual oversight hearings of the Commission.
It would be hard to imagine a group of nominees more well-versed in the agency they’ve been nominated to lead.
Ajit Pai, who has been renominated to a second term by President Trump, and was designated by the President to be the Chairman of the FCC this past January, has served as a Commissioner since 2012, when he was confirmed by voice vote in the Senate. Prior to becoming a commissioner, Chairman Pai worked on telecommunications policy in both the public and private sectors, notably serving here in the Senate as a staffer on the Judiciary Committee, as well as in the general counsel’s office at the FCC.
Jessica Rosenworcel, who has also been renominated by President Trump for a second term at the FCC, is well known to the Committee and has nearly two decades of experience in communications policy. She served as an FCC commissioner from May 2012 until January 2017, and before that, served as a senior staffer on the Commerce Committee for both Chairman Rockefeller and Chairman Inouye.
Brendan Carr, who is currently the FCC’s General Counsel, has worked at the Commission for a number of years, first in the office that he now heads and more recently as lead advisor to then-Commissioner Pai on wireless and public safety issues. He previously worked in private practice for Wiley Rein in the firm’s appellate, litigation, and telecom practices.
In my view, the FCC will be in very good hands when all three of these nominees are confirmed.
Since becoming Chairman, Mr. Pai has made much-needed reforms to improve transparency at the FCC and to improve the agency’s processes. I am particularly heartened by Chairman Pai’s efforts to treat fellow commissioners fairly by instituting the process of sharing documents with other commissioners before discussing them publicly, as well as starting a pilot project to publicly release the text of all agenda items in advance of Commission meetings. I frequently criticized the previous chairman’s hyper-partisan leadership approach on these issues because I believed it would lead to counter-productive outcomes over the long term. Chairman Pai’s new approach should lead to more long-lasting and positive results at the FCC.
With respect to internet regulations, I am pleased that Chairman Pai has sought to hit the reset button on the 2015 Title II Order, because, as I have previously said, the FCC should do what is necessary to rebalance the agency’s regulatory posture under current law. I continue to believe, however, that the best way to provide long-term protections for the internet is for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation. Two and a half years ago I put forward legislative principles and a draft bill to begin the conversation, and I stand ready and willing today to work toward finding a lasting legislative solution that will resolve the dispute over net neutrality once and for all.
Thankfully, the net neutrality debate has not distracted the FCC from important work in other areas. For instance, the FCC’s proposed rulemaking on robocalls is a positive step in the right direction. The government must do everything we can to protect consumers from those who are truly the bad actors, which is one reason why this committee has advanced Senator Nelson’s anti-spoofing legislation. But we also need to be sure the government’s rules are not unfairly punishing legitimate callers who are not acting maliciously. The FCC’s Notice of Inquiry will give that conversation a much-needed jumpstart.
Given the FCC’s importance to the future of our economy and our society, it is important for the Commission to seek opportunities for common ground. As I noted last fall, the previous chairman unfortunately led the Commission with unprecedented partisan zeal. I know that agreement is not always possible. Nevertheless, as a corrective to the Commission’s recent history, I urge you all to treat each other fairly, to respect the law, to be willing to ask Congress for guidance, and to seek consensus whenever and wherever possible. Doing so will improve the agency’s credibility and will result in actions that are more likely to endure.
Before I close, I want to extend my thanks to Chairman Pai for visiting my home state of South Dakota last month, as well as the emphasis the agency has placed on bridging the digital divide for rural states like mine where many are still without broadband service. The actions the agency has taken to advance the long-delayed second phases of both the Mobility Fund and the Connect America Fund will go a long way to ensure millions of Americans living in rural states will have access to an increasingly important service. I deeply appreciate it, and I also want to take the opportunity to invite Ms. Rosenworcel and Mr. Carr to visit South Dakota as well.
Thank you all for your willingness to serve the nation in these important positions, and thanks again to your families for supporting your service. As I’ve indicated, I support all three of these nominees, and look forward to confirming them quickly. With that, I now turn to the distinguished ranking member for any remarks he would like to make.
The committee has before it today all three nominees to the Federal Communications Commission. As we well know, the commission plays a vital role in protecting consumers and competition, and we should carefully review the qualifications to carry out this role of all persons nominated to serve as commissioners to this agency.
For Jessica Rosenworcel, it has been a long and winding road – when in reality she should already be well into her second term on the agency. I want to thank you for your patience, perseverance, and your continued willingness to serve the public on the commission. Your expertise, good judgement, and dedication to the public interest are essential.
Mr. Carr, congratulations on your nomination. It seems clear that you are well liked and well regarded by the communications bar.
But the two consecutive terms to which the Senate is being asked to confirm you would provide you with the longest single, initial period of service of any nominee to the FCC. In addition, it is hard to recall a similar situation where someone was nominated to serve at the commission alongside, rather than to follow, their current boss.
We must have commissioners with an independent voice at this critical independent regulatory agency and ones who will fight for consumers and the public interest.
That is why I will urge my colleagues to take a particularly hard look at confirming Mr. Carr to two consecutive terms. It seems to me that the wiser course would be to hold this hearing, consider his qualifications, and, if he is confirmed, see how he does over the next year or two before confirming him to an additional term at the top of this agency.
Finally, let me welcome back Chairman Pai. You have been busy since your last appearance. I want to give you due credit for many of the actions the FCC took at its open meeting last week. They included several solid, pro-consumer actions aimed at improving the lives of Americans.
But make no mistake, many view these most recent consumer protection actions as mere icing on what is otherwise an unpalatable cake.
A cake constructed out of actions that eliminate competitive protections, that threaten dangerous industry consolidation, that make the internet less free and less open, and that weaken critical consumer protections for those most vulnerable. I cautioned you earlier this year that I would judge your success at the agency on your ability to put the public interest ahead of powerful special interests. And I fear, frankly, that so far you have not taken that advice I provided many months ago to heart.
Ultimately, we need commissioners who have consumers’ backs. We need commissioners who are not afraid to use the robust statutory authority Congress has given the FCC to protect consumers. On behalf of those consumers, this committee will be watching your actions – and those of your colleagues – very closely.
Witness Panel 1
Ajit PaiNominee to be Member of the Federal Communications Commission (Reappointment)
Jessica RosenworcelNominee to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission (Reappointment)
Brendan CarrNominee to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission