A growing chorus of organizations is pressing the White House to end delays and appoint a full Federal Communications Commission to address the country’s digital divide and fulfill other vital goals
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Stanley, [email protected]
A coalition of 57 organizations sent a letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris, calling on their administration to appoint a fifth FCC commissioner without further delay. The agency, which must oversee the broadband internet and communications markets, has only four of five commissioners. As the letter notes, the Biden administration’s critical goal of ensuring high-speed broadband for all won’t get fulfilled with an understaffed FCC.
“[A]s we move toward the second half of 2021 with no nomination for the fifth and final commissioner, the Federal Communications Commission remains below full capacity, which is incompatible with the goal of delivering open, affordable and reliable high-speed broadband to every home. This is all the more urgent given the fact poor families and people of color are disproportionately disconnected from high-speed internet access, compounding grave inequalities that were made worse during the pandemic.”
With two Democratic and two Republican commissioners, the FCC is currently in a 2-2 deadlock, preventing it from making progress on a number of crucial fronts.
The full text of the letter is here, and can be found below.
This follows a similar letter sent earlier this year, signed by 32 organizations calling for a fully-staffed FCC. The growing number of groups and the urgency with which the letter calls for a full commission reflect an increasing sense that the administration should move immediately. As the letter notes:
“Given the legislative calendar and the diminishing number of days for hearings and confirmation votes, we have reached a critical point to guarantee the agency charged with ensuring affordable communications access can do its work during your administration.”
In March, a coalition of over 20 netroots organizations collected more than 100,000 signatures from people calling for the Biden administration to nominate a fifth commissioner without ties to the telecom industry.
Full letter and signatories below:
June 11, 2021
President Joe Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Vice President Kamala Harris
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris:
We write to convey the rapidly growing urgency to nominate a fifth commissioner to ensure a fully functional Federal Communications Commission.
We recognize the pressing and time-consuming challenges this administration has faced since its earliest days, combating the public health and economic crises caused by a historic pandemic. We also commend the administration on its aim to ensure everyone has affordable access to high-speed internet, as well as the work it has undertaken to meet this critical goal.
The emergency funding allocated and deployed through COVID-19 economic relief legislation and the billions proposed in the American Jobs Plan to close the digital divide are crucial measures. Time and again, your administration has demonstrated a deep understanding that broadband access is critical to education, work, health and wellbeing, and can literally be a matter of life and death.
Yet, as we move toward the second half of 2021 with no nomination for the fifth and final commissioner, the Federal Communications Commission remains below full capacity, which is incompatible with the goal of delivering open, affordable and reliable high-speed broadband to every home. This is all the more urgent given the fact poor families and people of color are disproportionately disconnected from high-speed internet access, compounding grave inequalities that were made worse during the pandemic.
Given the legislative calendar and the diminishing number of days for hearings and confirmation votes, we have reached a critical point to guarantee the agency charged with ensuring affordable communications access can do its work during your administration. Failing to nominate a fifth commissioner leaves the FCC less than fully operational and limits its capacity to most effectively:
- Remedy previous neglect of the Lifeline program that supports low-income access to communications;
- Create rules to make our nation’s networks more reliable and resilient;
- Help guide the deployment of new broadband infrastructure built with federal dollars to make it as effective as possible;
- Approve emergency waivers for E-rate funded infrastructure to be opened up for remote education;
- Meet the challenge of the 2018 Broadcast Ownership Quadrennial Review and halt the dangerous trend towards consolidated ownership in broadcasting by reasserting principles of localism, competition and ownership diversity; and
- Reclassify broadband internet access as a Title II service to ensure fair and equitable access for everyone and to reinstate strong net neutrality protections.
If we are to reach the goal of having a country where everyone, no matter their address or size of their bank account, has affordable access to high-speed internet, we need a full commission as soon as possible.
The FCC, as an expert agency with a mandate from Congress, has the singular ability to act as an empowered advocate to ensure affordable and reliable communications for all. The pandemic showed us the unshakable image of children doing their classwork from fast-food parking lots using borrowed WiFi. We cannot let those students or any family wait any longer. We urge the administration to not lose any more time and to nominate a fifth commissioner who is dedicated to bringing open, affordable and reliable internet access to all and fulfilling all of these vital goals.
- 18 Million Rising
- Access Humboldt
- Access Now
- American Civil Liberties Union
- American Family Voices
- American Library Association
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
- Atlanta Coalition for Educational Equity
- Baltimoreans for Educational Equity
- California Center for Rural Policy
- California Clean Money Campaign
- Center for Accessible Technology
- Center for Democracy & Technology
- Center for Rural Strategies
- Color Of Change
- Common Cause
- Communications Workers of America
- Communities Closing the Urban Digital Divide
- Consumer Reports (CR)
- Demand Progress Education Fund
- Detroit Community Technology Project
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Fight for the Future
- Free Press Action
- Future of Music Coalition
- Greatest Possible Good
- Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Libraries Without Borders
- Line Break Media LLC
- Media Alliance
- Movement Alliance Project
- National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients
- National Digital Inclusion Alliance
- National Hispanic Media Coalition
- Native Public Media
- New America’s Open Technology Institute
- Open Access Connections
- PEN America
- Progress America
- Public Citizen
- Public Knowledge
- Social Security Works
- The Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition
- The Greenlining Institute
- Tribal Digital Village Network
- United Church of Christ, OC Inc.
- Writers Guild of America West