Week ahead: FCC nominees head before Senate

Week ahead: FCC nominees head before Senate
© Getty

Senators will get to work in the coming week on President Trump's nominees to the Federal Communications Commission.

The agency has been operating with only three commissioners — two Republicans and a Democrat.

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a confirmation hearing for the two open seats.

Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr will appear before the panel. If confirmed they would give the FCC a 3-2 Republican edge.

Rosenworcel is no stranger to the FCC. She previously served as a commissioner from May 2012 to January 2017, when she stepped down after lawmakers failed to reach a deal for her reconfirmation.

Trump nominated Rosenworcel in June. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump is right: The visa lotto has got to go Schumer predicts bipartisan support for passing DACA fix this year No room for amnesty in our government spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.) also pushed for her to retake her post.

That same month, Trump also tapped Brendan Carr to be the third Republican commissioner. Carr is currently general counsel at the agency and previously served as an adviser to now Chairman Ajit Pai.

Pai, who is up to be reconfirmed, will also testify at the hearing Wednesday.

The three will all likely face tough questions from lawmakers on the agency's biggest issues – in particular Pai's controversial push to roll back the Obama-era net neutrality rules. Rosenworcel was a strong supporter of the rules during her previous tenure at the agency.

They can also expect questions on Pai's efforts to "bridge the digital divide" between urban areas and underserved rural communities whose broadband and phone services need improvement.

Pai has made that a centerpiece of his chairmanship, but Democrats say many of his policies, such as easing the agency's oversight of broadband providers, will make the digital divide worse.

Democrats have knocked Pai for his changes to the Lifeline program, which subsidizes broadband access for low-income households. They say that Pai is hurting a beneficial program. He says reforms will bring better accountability and oversight.

Neither the Carr and Rosenworcel nominations nor Pai's are expected to be in doubt, but Democratic lawmakers will certainly use the public forum to grill the chairman on his policies.

While all eyes will be on the Senate's expected vote on an ObamaCare repeal and replace bill in the coming week, there's still plenty of tech action in Congress as well.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will host a hearing on the Mars Rover 2020 and Europa Clipper Missions at 10:00 a.m.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Agriculture will hold a hearing on rural infrastructure, including discussions on rural broadband at 10:00 a.m.

The same day at 11:00 a.m. the House Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing on obstacles to entrepreneurship featuring CNBC's Larry Kudlow as a witness.

The hearing comes one week after the Trump administration's decision to delay the international entrepreneur rule or "startup visa" that would have made it easier for entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the U.S.

On Thursday, a House Small Business Subcommittee will hold a hearing on how "telehealth can help rural communities" at 10:00 a.m.

In the upper chamber, also on Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on updating FirstNet, an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that works to provide technology solutions to first responders.

 

Recent stories:

Dem wants hearing on Amazon's bid for Whole Foods

Groups ask Sessions to scrutinize AT&T-Time Warner merger

DraftKings, FanDuel drop merger after government scrutiny

Hotel industry helping New York City find illegal Airbnb rentals

FCC launches new effort to crack down on robocalls

Poll: GOP voters support net neutrality rules, oppose AT&T-Time Warner merger

House Dems accuse GOP of trying to 'shield' FCC's net neutrality repeal from oversight

Dems rally for net neutrality on 'Day of Action'

Internet companies launch offensive against FCC's net neutrality rollback

14M customers vulnerable in massive Verizon data leak

Web inventor urges support for net neutrality

Senate Republican: We need bipartisan net neutrality legislation