By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -More than 50 U.S. groups urged President Joe Biden on Monday to fill the open seat on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in order to begin the process of reinstating net neutrality rules repealed under the prior administration.
Biden has not yet nominated a candidate for the fifth seat on the commission, which remains deadlocked 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats – and he not yet tapped a permanent chair for the U.S. telecommunications regulator. The American Civil Liberties Union, American Libraries Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Writers Guild of America West and other groups said Biden should act quickly.
“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,” the groups wrote.
Biden tapped Jessica Rosenworcel as the acting FCC chair in January. Lawmakers and others have urged Biden to tap either Rosenworcel or several other candidates.
The White House and Rosenworcel did not immediately comment on Monday.
The letter, also signed by Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Mozilla, Public Citizen and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, cited other key FCC issues, including revisiting a low-income subsidy program, setting rules for new broadband infrastructure and revising media ownership rules.
The FCC under former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, adopted net neutrality rules in 2015 that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes.
The protections were overturned in 2017 by the FCC under President Donald Trump, a Republican.
Supporters of net neutrality argue the protections ensure a free and open internet. Broadband and telecoms trade groups contend their legal basis from the pre-internet era was outdated and would discourage investment.
In February, a judge said California could implement its net neutrality rules after the Justice Department withdrew its legal challenge.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler)