Baker, Clyburn Confirmed by Senate: FCC at Full Slate
On Friday, July 24, the Senate confirmed the nominations of Meredith Attwell Baker and Mignon Clyburn as FCC Commissioners. Both nominees appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 15 to be vetted by the 25 members of the committee. Baker and Clyburn were nominated by President Barack Obama on June 25; no date has been set for their swearing in.
Clyburn will fill the unexpired term of Republican Deborah Taylor Tate, whose tenure as a Commissioner came to a close on January 3, 2009 when the Senate failed to confirm her nomination; Clyburn's term will expire June 30, 2012. Baker will fill the unexpired term of fellow Republican and former Chairman Kevin J. Martin who resigned in January 2009; her term will expire June 30, 2011. Baker will join Robert McDowell as a Republican on the Commission. Current Commissioner Michael Copps is a Democrat, as are Chairman Julius Genachowski and Clyburn. Only three sitting Commissioners may be members of the same political party.
For much of this year, the FCC has been operating with just three commissioners. Once Genachowski was sworn in as chairman, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, left the FCC. He was confirmed by the Senate as the Administrator for the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS), also on July 24. Chairman Genachowski said that he is looking forward to "forging a strong partnership with Jonathan as the FCC and RUS collaborate to extend the benefits of broadband to all corners of the country."
Meredith Baker Attwell
Baker, the daughter-in-law of former Secretary of State James Baker, served as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and the Acting Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from 2007 to January 2009. Named as Deputy Assistant Secretary in February 2007, Baker first joined NTIA as a Senior Advisor in January 2004, and also served as Acting Associate Administrator for the Office of International Affairs and on detail to the White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Baker spearheaded the coupon program for digital-to-analog converter boxes to help facilitate the transition to digital television (DTV). She has served on delegations representing the United States at major international telecommunications conferences and engaged in bilateral discussions with senior level officials from countries around the world. Before joining NTIA, Baker was Vice President at the firm of Williams Mullen Strategies where she focused on telecommunications, intellectual property and international trade issues. From 2000-2002, she held the position as Senior Counsel to Covad Communications. Before that, she was Director of Congressional Affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) from 1998-2000. In the 1990s, Baker worked at the US Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit in Houston and later at the law firm of DeLange and Hudspeth. From 1990-1992, she worked in the Legislative Affairs Office of the US Department of State in Washington, DC.
In her opening statement at her confirmation hearing, Baker spoke of the need for broadband technology. "Chairman Genachowski, who is off to a great start at the FCC, gave an inspirational introductory speech to the FCC staff on the day of his arrival," she said. "He stated that the promise of technology has never been brighter and consequently, the obligations of the Commission have never been greater. I share that view. The FCC holds the keys to unleashing the power of broadband, the new media landscape and true public safety interoperability. That responsibility is challenging but the rewards will truly make a difference in the life and future of every American."
Baker reminded the Committee that Congress has directed the FCC to develop and implement a National Broadband Plan by February 2010. "This directive holds great promise for our nation," she said. "Not only do many aspects of our children's education and opportunities for lifelong learning depend on this directive, but so too does the next generation of health care delivery, smart energy grid development, and public safety interoperability. The FCC will play an important role in making sure that the right regulatory environment exists to incent companies to build out infrastructure faster, to reward innovation and investment and to encourage competition."
She also spoke about the Radio Spectrum Inventory Act that was introduced in March in the Senate; a companion bill was introduced in the House in early July: "I believe we can reap great benefits from a spectrum policy that unlocks the value of the public airwaves in more efficient, transparent and flexible ways. The Spectrum Inventory bill that this Committee marked up last week shows important leadership and is a first step to increasing wireless broadband use in innovative ways such as secondary markets, leasing, and testbeds."
Chairman Genachowski congratulated Baker on her confirmation. "Meredith is a distinguished public servant who will bring unique insight and expertise to bear in the agency's policymaking process," he said. "I enthusiastically await Meredith's arrival at the FCC and the opportunity to collaborate with her on advancing our shared goal of improving the lives of all Americans. With the full slate of Commissioners on board, I look forward to working with all of my colleagues on policies that advance innovation, investment, competition and consumer interests."
Clyburn, the daughter of House Majority Whip Representative James Clyburn (D-SC), has served on the Public Service Commission of South Carolina since 1998. The Public Service Commission regulates South Carolina's investor owned public utilities, including providers of telecommunications services. Before her election to that body, she spent 14 years as the publisher and general manager of The Coastal Times, a weekly newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina.
In 1998, Clyburn was elected by the South Carolina General Assembly as a Commissioner to represent the Sixth Congressional District; she has been re-elected three times, chairing the Commission from 2002-2004. She is a past chair of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and is presently the chair of the Washington Action Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). Clyburn also serves on NARUC's Audit Committee and Utilities Market Access Partnership Board.
Clyburn told the Committee that she will "work with each member of [the Commerce, Science and Transportation] Committee to ensure that the FCC is fair, open and transparent and that it protects consumers, encourages robust competition in the marketplace and champions technological innovation."
In her opening statement, Clyburn emphasized that "We also must ensure that all Americans have access to and can make productive use of the communications tools essential to making the American Dream a reality. Most notably, by providing universal, high-speed, high-quality affordable access to broadband we can establish the essential underpinnings for enduring national prosperity."
In speaking to the Committee, she told them that she was "a strong believer in the value of collaboration within and among levels of the government," and has "witnessed first-hand the benefits of and necessity for cooperation among local, state and federal governmental agencies. These partnerships are essential to achieving a uniform and predictable regulatory environment in which technological innovation can thrive."
Clyburn said that network operators should have "reasonable tools" to control what goes over their networks. She said that whether network neutrality regulations were needed would depend on whether the market was competitive. If so, there might be no need, but if not, it warranted consideration.
"It is with great pleasure that I congratulate Mignon L. Clyburn on her Senate confirmation," Chairman Genachowski said. "Mignon's deep commitment to public service, experience in state government, and entrepreneurial expertise will be invaluable assets to this agency. I enthusiastically await Mignon's arrival at the FCC and the opportunity to collaborate with her on advancing our shared goal of improving the lives of all Americans through communications. With the full slate of Commissioners on board, I look forward to working with all of my colleagues on policies that promote innovation, investment, competition and consumers."