President Obama Nominates Meredith Attwell Baker and Mignon Clyburn to be FCC Commissioners
On the same day -- June 25 -- that the Senate confirmed the nominations of Julius Genachowski as FCC Chairman and current Commissioner Robert McDowell, President Barack Obama nominated Democrat Mignon Clyburn and Republican Meredith Attwell Baker to be FCC Commissioners. If Clyburn and Baker are confirmed by the Senate, the FCC would be at its full complement of five Commissioners.
If her nomination is approved, Clyburn would 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 would expire July 1, 2012. Baker would fill the unexpired term of fellow Republican and former Chairman Kevin J. Martin who resigned in January 2009. Her term would expire June 30, 2011.
If confirmed, Baker would be the second Republican, along with McDowell, on the Commission. Current Commissioner and Acting Chairman Michael Copps is a Democrat, as are 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 is sworn in as chairman, Copps will step down from his position as Acting Chairman, but remain on the Commission for at least another year; his term ends June 30, 2010. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, plans to leave the FCC after the new chairman takes his position. Adelstein has been nominated by President Obama to be the Administrator for the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
Meredith Attwell Baker
Baker, the daughter-in-law of former Secretary of State James Baker, formerly 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 was replaced by Larry Strickling, who received the Senate's nod to head the NTIA on Thursday, June 25.
"We have serious concerns regarding the nomination of Meredith Attwell Baker as an FCC Commissioner," said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. "While Ms. Baker was Acting Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the NTIA released a deeply flawed report entitled Networked Nation: Broadband in America 2007. The report seriously and inexcusably overstated the extent of deployment of Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) as a means of delivering broadband services to consumers. Documented FCC figures showed there to be about 5000 BPL customers nationwide, yet the NTIA dismissed this number out of hand and went on a fishing expedition for higher figures that it could quote in the range of 200,000 to 400,000 -- utterly specious numbers without a shred of factual foundation."
Sumner continued: "The ARRL proved that these figures were taken out of thin air and twice called upon Acting Administrator Baker to issue a correction. Not only has the NTIA failed to do so to this day, our well documented complaints were not even acknowledged. If her FCC nomination is to go forward, we believe that Ms. Baker first must acknowledge and correct this egregious error that occurred while she was in charge at NTIA."
Baker spearheaded the coupon program for digital-to-analog converter boxes to help facilitate the transition to digital television. 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.
"I am so pleased that...we can begin to look forward to a fully-constituted FCC," said Acting Chairman Copps. "With all the communications challenges confronting the Commission, I am looking forward to having the benefit of all the talents that five members can bring to our work. These nominees will get us there. I had the opportunity to work with Meredith Baker while she led NTIA and I quickly came to appreciate her intelligence, dedication and collegiality. If confirmed, she will bring a wealth of experience and credibility with her. She is an excellent choice for the job."
Fellow Republican McDowell had nothing but praise for Attwell: "President Obama has made an excellent choice by nominating my friend Meredith A. Baker to be a commissioner of the FCC. I have had the privilege of working with Meredith for many years in both the private and public sectors and I know firsthand of her strong commitment to public service. Her experience, intellect, energy, regulatory philosophy and sense of humor will make her a first-rate commissioner. Additionally, her knowledge of the issues that are likely to come before the FCC in the coming years is second to none. American consumers will be well-served by her service at the Commission. I look forward to working with her."
Baker earned a BA from Washington & Lee University in 1990 and a law degree from the University of Houston in 1994. A member of the Texas State Bar, she resides in McLean, Virginia with her family.
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.
Calling Clyburn a "fine public servant," Obama said she was "a welcome addition to my team as we work to put America on a path towards prosperity and keep our nation safe. I am honored [Clyburn] will be joining my administration and look forward to working with [her] in the months and years ahead."
Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps congratulated Clyburn, saying, "She is an excellent choice, and the experience she brings from her service on South Carolina's Public Service Commission will be an invaluable asset as we address the many challenges and opportunities that are before us. I wish her a successful Senate confirmation and look forward to working with her over the coming months and years in serving consumers and the public interest."
Clyburn graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science degree in Banking, Finance & Economics in 1984.