FCC Chair Champions Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel left little doubt Wednesday that she hopes to reinstate net neutrality regulations.

“I want to respect that people have a lot of different positions regarding net neutrality, but I support it,” Rosenworcel testified to the Senate Commerce Committee at her renomination hearing.

Her statement came in response to Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), who asked Rosenworcel whether her views had changed since 2017, when she dissented from the FCC's decision to revoke the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

In 2015, Rosenworcel voted in favor of the agency's decision to classify broadband as a utility service, and to impose some common carrier rules in providers -- including prohibitions on blocking or throttling traffic, and on charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.

When the Republican-led FCC repealed those rules in 2017, Rosenworcel said in a written dissent, “I’m not going to give up -- and neither should you. If the arc of history is long, we are going to bend this toward a more just outcome.”

Thune made clear in his questions that he thinks Congress, as opposed to the FCC, should determine rules regarding net neutrality.

He prefaced one question to Rosenworcel by saying, "I still think that the best way to provide long-term protection for the internet is for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation," then asked: “If you're confirmed as chair of the FCC, will you commit to coming to Congress for more direction before attempting any iteration of net neutrality rules?”

Rosenworcel declined to do so.

“I will always agree to work with this committee on these issues and offer any technical assistance when asked,” she responded.

When Thune pressed for a “yes” or “no” answer, she said: “I think you know as a matter of history that in 2015 I supported the agency putting in place net neutrality rules, so I believe it inherently has the authority to do so.”

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