Biden’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

4 Dec 2020

Inauguration Day promises sweeping change across the federal government—and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no exception. Ajit Pai, the FCC’s current Republican chairman appointed by President Trump, will depart the agency on January 20, as is customary with past agency leaders. With his departure may come some sweeping changes at the Commission. The FCC’s current policy and enforcement priorities may shift, especially with the Republicans slated to lose their majority with the departures of Pai and Commissioner Mike O’Rielly (whose replacement Nathan Simington from the Commerce Department was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee).

Under a Biden-Harris administration, Democrats will have a 3-2 majority and be in a position to possibly reverse highly-debated Trump-era rulemakings on net neutrality, Section 230, and reductions to the Lifeline program, a staple of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) program. A Biden-Harris FCC could also expand Pai’s work on the digital divide, balancing his focus on broadband deployment with adoption and use, which some have argued are the primary reasons for slowed down subscription rates among non-internet adopters. 5G and the need for more accurate data could take priority for the Biden-Harris FCC, although this is all dependent upon who gets chosen as the new chair. Finally, Pai’s track record on process reforms that resulted in more votes on rulemakings and increased transparency at meetings could be continued by incoming leadership.

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