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What is the FCC and what do they do?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the federal government that regulates interstate and international communications. The commission was created in 1934 through the passage of the Communications Act and is tasked with regulating radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all U.S. states and territories.
The job of the FCC has adapted over the years as communication technologies have changed. Today, it has many different goals. It works to promote competition in the communications sector, ensure consumer information and education, adapt regulations for new technologies to flourish and encourage the best use of communication both domestically and internationally.
Who runs the FCC?
The FCC is made up of five commissioners, all of whom are appointed by the U.S. president and confirmed by the Senate. The president is also tasked with choosing one of those commissions to serve as the chairperson. In 2021, President Joe Biden chose Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as the FCC chairwoman. Rosenworcel is technically the acting chairwoman, as her appointment hasn’t been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She has served the FCC since 2012 when President Barack Obama appointed her as a commissioner.
Rosenworcel is a native of Hartford, CT. She graduated from Wesleyan University with an undergraduate degree and from New York University with a law degree. After graduating from law school, Rosenworcel practiced communications law in Washington, DC, where she lives with her family.
Since joining the FCC, Rosenworcel has worked to promote greater accessibility in communications services, including making them more affordable for all Americans.
She has strongly advocated for net neutrality, broadband access for all and economic growth and security through a strong communications market.
Rosenworcel understands the plight of those caught in the digital divide and how the pandemic has shed new light on the issue.
“When I was growing up, homework required nothing more than your siblings leaving you alone and a Number 2 pencil. Those days are gone. Because now internet access is required,” she remarked in March at the World Summit on the Information Society’s forum.
“The best evidence of this is this past school year. In the United States, many schools shut down part-time or full-time and reverted to remote learning. What this means is that students were told to head online to class. But students without internet access at home are locked out of this virtual classroom. In the United States, our data shows that as many as 16.9 million children in my country alone fall into the Homework Gap.”
Why the FCC is important in today’s society
In an increasingly digital age, the work of the FCC impacts each of our lives. After all, the FCC works to make communications technologies more accessible, affordable and fair. Their job is to protect consumers, a job that sometimes puts them at odds with major communications providers.
Throughout the years, the FCC has been at the center of impactful, and often controversial, decisions. For example, the FCC has put forward regulations that address how internet service providers can handle sensitive consumer data and in what situations they can use or sell it. They have also overseen transactions involving communications companies, such as mergers and acquisitions. More recently, the FCC has worked to address the increase in unlawful robocalls and malicious spoofing, when callers deliberately disguise their identities.
One of the biggest FCC initiatives to address the digital divide this year is the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The program provides qualifying households with a $50 credit on their internet bill each month. This credit increases to $75/mo. for those who live on Tribal lands.
The job of the FCC becomes even more important as more people work and learn from home.
Why is the FCC concerned about net neutrality?
One of the greatest concerns for the FCC and its chairperson is net neutrality, which is the idea that all information on the internet should be treated equally, including being equally accessible. Under net neutrality, internet providers can’t speed up access to certain websites, while slowing down access to others. It’s built on the premise that internet providers shouldn’t censor data and that companies shouldn’t be able to buy internet priority.
Previous administrations and FCC leaders have largely supported and promoted net neutrality. But in December 2017, the FCC voted to end net neutrality, a vote that was later upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Rosenworcel has made it clear that net neutrality is a priority for her, meaning we could see net neutrality requirements come back.
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Written by:Erin Gobler
Erin Gobler is a personal finance writer based in Madison, WI. She writes about topics including budgeting, student loans, credit, mortgages, investing, broadband and insurance. Including Allconnect.com, her wor… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
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