Telecom companies, industry groups, and consumer advocates all agree that the pair of Federal Communications Commission nominees confirmed by the Senate on Monday are well prepared for the job, but observers are waiting to see where the new commissioners come down on policy issues.
After months of delay, the Senate confirmed Jessica Rosenworcel, a former Senate Commerce Committee senior communications counsel, to fill a Democratic seat on the FCC and Ajit Pai, a former FCC aide, to fill a Republican seat.
Both Rosenworcel and Pai have already done stints as staffers at the FCC, and most who have done business with the agency praised the pair's knowledge of the issues.
"Both are well-qualified and respected, and will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to their positions in an important period for communications policy," said Verizon vice president for regulatory affairs Kathleen Grillo. Among the issues that the new commissioners will be considering is Verizon's bid to buy spectrum from cable companies.
The praise from all corners is backed up by both new commissioners' experience, but it also reflects a desire by many of the people with business before the FCC to play nice with commissioners who may be casting deciding votes on issues like media ownership and broadband subsidies.
In general Rosenworcel and Pai are expected to largely approach issues from their various political views: Rosenworcel from the left with a more supportive view of an active government role; and Pai from the right with a more deregulatory standpoint.
In a statement on Monday, Pai voiced his plans to "maximize the benefits of competition and innovation for American consumers" and create a regulatory environment where companies can create jobs and help the economy.
The short-handed FCC has continued voting on major issues since Meredith Attwell Baker left last summer and Michael Copps stepped down at the end of 2011. But with five full members, observers see potential for new alliances, new opinions, and new votes.
Copps, who Rosenworcel once worked for and now replaces, said he expects the new FCC members to focus on helping more people access broadband; and ensuring that the media market serves consumers.
"The FCC needs to be proactive on both these fronts, and I'll be looking to the new commissioners to make it happen," he said in a statement.
Craig Aaron, president of the media reform group Free Press echoed sentiments that Rosenworcel and Pai are "particularly well prepared" for the commission. He said he views Rosenworcel as a "straight shooter," and Pai, who will likely disagree with many of Free Press's positions, as someone who is well regarded and open minded.
"But you never really know until they're sitting in the chair," Aaron said. "Like many other kinds of nominees, past performance is not always indicative of future decisions."
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