clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

President Trump may have found his new nominees for the Federal Communications Commission

The front-runners are Brendan Carr, an aide to the FCC’s chairman, and Jessica Rosenworcel, a former Democratic commissioner.

President Donald Trump meets with House and Senate leadership - DC Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump could soon fill the two open slots at the Federal Communications Commission, by tapping Brendan Carr, an aide to the FCC’s current Republican chairman, and Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat who previously served at the agency.

At the moment, those two seasoned telecom policy experts are seen as the front-runners to fill the remaining seats at the five-member FCC, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter, though Trump has not yet formally nominated anyone — and the White House did not respond to multiple emails this week seeking comment.

The positions are the subject of much speculation in the nation’s capital because the FCC is well under way with its work to scrap the government’s net neutrality rules, put in place under the watch of former President Barack Obama, and rethink the country’s media ownership laws. Whoever Trump ultimately chooses is sure to confront questions about their approach to those issues during the customary Senate confirmation process.

Carr, for his part, is currently the general counsel to Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. If elevated to commissioner, Carr could become a major, new legal ally to his soon-to-be-former boss.

Photo of Brendan Carr, Donald Trump FCC nominee Credit: FCC website

Multiple sources told Recode they believe that Pai actually recommended Carr, who joined Pai’s staff in 2014, for the open Republican job at the FCC. (Pai’s office declined to comment on the speculation.) Politically, though, Carr could face criticism from some Democrats and left-leaning consumer groups because of his business background.

Before arriving at the FCC as an attorney in 2012, he worked as a lawyer at the D.C. law firm Wiley Rein and represented telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon and two of their main trade associations, USTelecom and the wireless-focused lobbying group, CTIA. Similar ties to the telecom industry previously haunted Pai, who represented Verizon at a D.C. law firm before he joined the commission.

Rosenworcel, meanwhile, could soon return to an agency she knows well. The Democrat served as a commissioner at the FCC under former President Barack Obama beginning in 2012, and Rosenworcel only left the agency at the end of last year because the Senate ran out of time to extend her term.

Senate Commerce Committee Holds FCC Oversight Hearing
Jessica Rosenworcel
T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty

During her run at the FCC, Rosenworcel had been a strong advocate for the net neutrality rules currently on the government’s books. And she spoke repeatedly about the need to expand government programs to get more Americans online, particularly children, many of whom don’t have access to reliable, fast internet to complete their classwork — a problem Rosenworcel describes as the “homework gap.”

Rosenworcel enjoys support from many Democrats — including the party’s leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, who recommended to Trump that she be re-nominated to the FCC. When she departed the agency in 2016, though, she left some Democratic-aligned public interest groups a tad miffed.

At the time, the agency under its former Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, had sought to pass rules that might have made it easier for consumers to rent their own set-top boxes, without having to lease one from their cable company. Rosenworcel felt the FCC’s order overstepped the agency’s authority. Ultimately, she and Wheeler never resolved their differences, so Democrats’ bid to reform the set-top box landscape died as their party lost the White House.

Carr and Rosenworcel would join Michael O’Rielly, the FCC’s other Republican commissioner, and Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat. But Clyburn might not stay at the agency for much longer. Her term expires at the end of June, though she can stay on the commission later than that — and it is not clear if Trump intends to re-nominate her to the post.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.