BARCELONA—Jessica Rosenworcel is an FCC commissioner, but she doesn’t agree with some of the agency’s recent decisions.

MWC Bug ArtBarring Congressional action, net neutrality protections will end on April 23, thanks to a party-line 3-2 vote in December. In Rosenworcel’s view, that is more than a mistake; it is a “blunder.” We caught up with her on the show floor here at Mobile World Congress, where FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also made an appearance as a keynote speaker—shortly after receiving an award from the National Rifle Association for his role in repealing net neutrality.

“We handed our broadband providers the right and power to block content, throttle services, and to censor things you see online,” Rosenworcel told PCMag. “I don’t think that is smart.”

“The FCC made this blunder, it made this error, but in its wake something amazing happened,” Rosenworcel said. “We woke up this sleeping giant: the American public.”

People have written her office in record numbers on the issue, Rosenworcel said. She added that there is a flurry of activity in state and even local governments to enact some form of net neutrality protections. “That makes me feel like there is some hope,” she said.

The Future of 5G

Rosenworcel is a longtime attendee of MWC, and has watched the US take a leadership position in the wireless industry. “In the current generation of 4G and LTE, the US has been in a leadership role. We were out there early and we reaped the benefits.”

That said, this lead will not necessarily extend to the new world of 5G. When it comes to the rollout of 5G, US preparedness is a bit of a mixed bag, according to Rosenworcel. “In some ways, we are ahead, and in other ways, we are behind,” she said.

“We do not have a spectrum auction scheduled for this year,” she said. “Other countries like Germany, United Kingdom, Romania, and South Korea already have auctions scheduled for this year. I don’t want to see us fall behind. That is why I am pressing my colleagues to put an auction on the calendar for this year.”

In his keynote address, Chairman Pai announced a November auction of spectrum in the 28GHz band, followed by an auction of spectrum in the 24GHz band. But that will require Congress to pass legislation by May 13 “addressing the handling of upfront payments,” Pai said.

One the reasons Rosenworcel comes to MWC is to access state-of-the-art technology from other countries. She took a particular interest in segments of broadband spectrum that are being set aside for 5G in China, but not in the US. But regardless of who the market leaders are, Rosenworcel has no doubts the technology is coming. “We are going to see real 5G activity around 2020, and I’m looking forward to it,” she said

Check out our full interview above and back episodes of Fast Forward here.



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