Senate lawmakers on Wednesday expressed broad support for nominees to the Federal Communications Commission, lauding Republican Ajit Vradaraj Pai and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel for their deep telecom policy experience.
Their nominations come at a time when the agency is focusing on Internet communications.
In a Commerce Committee hearing, President Obama’s nominees said they would approach their jobs as regulators with “humility” and vowed to balance regulation with needs of the phone, cable, and wireless businesses they would regulate.
“Communications technology is changing at a brisk pace. Laws and regulations struggle to keep up,”said Rosenworcel, who served five years as the senior counsel on telecommunications issues for the committee. “The challenge for the FCC is identifying how to inspire the best in communications in a world where change is constant and innovation can invert what we think we know.”
Pai praised companies for their advancements in Internet and mobile technology — issues that the agency is grappling to address as more Americans replace plain old phones for cell phones
“For this, the private sector deserves the lion’s share of the credit. After all, companies and entrepreneurs took risks,” Pai said. “And they created millions of jobs along the way.”
The nominees skirted questions about how they viewed the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile and whether the FCC should clarify its role as the leading agency over broadband Internet technology. But Pai and Rosenworcel agreed that some parts of communications laws could use updating.
Pai, a former FCC attorney, said there could be more clarity on the agency’s role over fees negotiations between cable operators and broadcast networks, for example.
Some lawmakers agreed, but said Congress should figure out the role of the FCC as more communication shifts to the Internet.
“I have had disagreements with the FCC on the amount of regulation they are doing,” said ranking committee member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.). “It’s up to Congress to update the law, and not the FCC’s position to contort their position.”
Some House Republican members are pursuing an FCC bill that would require greater economic studies on new policies and limit the time spent on merger reviews and conditions attached to merger approvals.
During the hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.) issued a statement reiterating his intention to hold up the nominees in a floor vote until the FCC releases documents he has requested related to a separate issue regarding the company LightSquared.