Florida business and consumer groups blast federal FCC chair for footdragging on rural broadband access

by | Nov 17, 2021

Amid a multi-month delay in the rollout of the Congressionally funded Emergency Broadband Benefits (EBB) program, two non-profit groups representing consumers, taxpayers, and businesses have called into question the fitness of acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to serve her role.  Rosenworcel faced a U.S Senate Commerce Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday to consider approving her appointment to serve as Chairwoman.

The nomination could play a pivotal role on the question of net neutrality, which Republicans oppose and Democrats – including Rosenworcel – support.

But the Florida Alliance of Consumers and Taxpayers (FACT) and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce blasted Rosenworcel Wednesday, seeking to hold her accountable for the delay in the EBB rollout, and accusing her of making it harder for financially disadvantaged rural households to take advantage of broadband services. The FCC program provides discounts of up to $50 per month toward broadband internet service for those families.

“When rural Floridians – and Americans – needed broadband access as soon as possible, Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel listened to the powerful special interests in the telecom industry and delayed implementation of a crucial federal program,” said Florida State Hispanic Chamber President Julio Fuentes. “Many of these people denied more timely access are people of color. It is unconscionable that this program was delayed at the behest of Big Telecom.”

“The decision to delay the implementation of the EBB program by several months calls into question Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s ability to properly lead the FCC in the public interest,” said FACT director Jim Messer. “Why the delay? Why did powerful special interests prevail over the public interest? Americans deserve answers to these and other questions.”

Both FACT and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber called on the Senate Commerce Committee to question Rosenworcel over the delays.

Reached this afternoon, a spokesman for Florida Senator Rick Scott, who attended this morning’s hearing, could not immediately respond to questions seeking comment about Rosenworcel’s nomination.

“Perhaps a delay of her nomination would be an effective way to communicate how painful this delay in EBB implementation was to those who needed broadband help so desperately,” Messer said.

President Biden waited upwards of nine months to make nominations for the FCC, which has not been able to solve key issues due to the vacancy of the fifth chairperson and is split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans.

Messages seeking comment from Rosenworcel were not immediately returned.


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