RealTime IT News

FCC Nomination Tips Scales to Right

President Bush plans to nominate Tennessee utility regulator Deborah Taylor Tate to fill one of the vacant Republican slots on the five-person Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Tate's appointment, subject to Senate approval, will restore the 3-2 Republican majority.

When Michael Powell resigned as chairman of the FCC in March, Republican Commissioner Kevin Martin was promoted to head the agency, which created a vacancy on the panel. Since then, Martin has had to deal with an evenly split FCC of two Republicans and two Democrats.

Tate, 49, currently serves as director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, which regulates the state's privately owned telephone companies and utilities.

In 2003, Powell appointed Tate to the FCC's Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Telecommunications Services. Previously she served as assistant legal counsel to former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, who now serves the state as a senator.

"If confirmed, Debi Tate will be an excellent addition to the Commission," Martin said in a statement released early Wednesday evening. "She has a distinguished career in state government, and she has worked closely with the Commission in her role as director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority."

Although Tate's appointment will return a Republican majority to the FCC, the advantage may be short-lived.

Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy is expected to step down as soon as the end of the year. Bush has not nominated a successor to Abernathy.

In addition to the Tate nomination, Bush nominated Democrat Michael Copps, who has served as an FCC commissioner since 2001, for another term.

The former chief of Staff to Sen. Ernest Hollings, Copps often clashed with Powell over the direction of telecommunications policy and regulation. If approved by the Senate, Copps's new term will expire in 2010.

"He has served admirably at the Commission for the past four years," Martin said, "and I respect his insight and thoughtfulness on issues before the Commission."

The even split between Republicans and Democrats has forced Martin to compromise on a number of issues, most notably in the recent FCC approval of the SBC-AT&T and Verizon-MCI mergers.

Martin wanted the deals approved with no regulatory strings attached, but, lacking a majority, he had to accommodate Democrat demands for the nation's two largest incumbent telephone companies to sell standalone DSL and to maintain peering agreements with other Internet backbone providers.