Biden urges FCC to undo Pai’s legacy—but it can’t until he picks a third Democrat

Enlarge / Then-Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai testifies at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on June 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who is now the FCC’s acting chairwoman, looks on. (credit: Getty Images | Alex Wong)

President Biden today urged the Federal Communications Commission to restore net neutrality rules and take steps to boost price transparency and competition in broadband—but the FCC can’t do most or all of that yet because Biden still hasn’t nominated a fifth commissioner to break the 2-2 deadlock between Democrats and Republicans.

Consumer advocacy groups have been urging Biden to nominate a third Democrat to the deadlocked FCC for months, but he still hasn’t done so. What’s causing the holdup isn’t clear. The delay could wipe out the FCC’s ability to do anything opposed by Republicans for all of 2021, because it can take the Senate months to approve FCC nominations, and the FCC process for complicated rulemakings is also lengthy.

Biden today released a fact sheet describing an executive order focused on boosting competition in numerous industries. The order targets four broadband problems that Biden’s order “encourages” the FCC to solve: deals between ISPs and landlords that limit tenants’ choices; misleading advertised prices; high termination fees; and net neutrality. (We published a separate article today on how other parts of the executive order affect the tech industry.)

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