Obama Rounds Out FCC With Baker Nomination

Meredith Attwell Baker Julius Genachowski
Meredith Attwell Baker (Photo: NTIA) and Julius Genachowski (Photo: Launchbox Digital)

President Obama today nominated Republican Meredith Attwell Baker to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, a widely expected move that would fill the last spot on the five-person panel.

Just hours after the announcement, the Senate voted to confirm Julius Genachowski as the agency’s chair, also approving Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell to serve a second term.

The Senate also confirmed Larry Strickling to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the division of the Commerce Department that is charged with allocated the lion’s share of the funding for broadband projects allocated in the economic stimulus package.

Baker, a 12-year veteran of the telecom sector, served as an official in the Commerce Department under the most recent Bush administration.

Baker will now be subject of her own Senate confirmation proceeding, a process that will likely pair her with Commissioner-designate Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat.

Obama had announced his intention to tap Clyburn for the job in April, but officially reported her nomination to the Senate today along with Baker’s.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, praised Baker’s nomination, saying she “will be a strong, independent voice.”

She added, “Her previous experience in telecommunications policy will serve her well as she works with other commissioners to tackle the FCC’s crucial priorities, such as improving broadband access for unserved communities.”

Since January, Michael Copps has served as acting chairman of the FCC. Copps offered kind words for the selection of Baker and Clyburn.

“I am so pleased that with today’s nominations we can begin to look forward to a fully-constituted FCC,” Copps said in a statement. “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.”

The nominations of Baker and Clyburn could speed the departure of Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, whom Obama has tapped to head the Rural Utilities Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture that is responsible for doling out about a third of the grants and loans for broadband projects allocated in the economic stimulus package.

That bill directed the FCC to advise RUS and NTIA in reviewing the applications, and to deliver a national broadband strategy to Congress by next February.

The commission is due to provide an update on the broadband plan at a meeting next Thursday.

[cob:Special_Report]In her pre-government career, Baker has served as vice president at Williams Mullen Strategies, where she handled telecom, intellectual property and international trade issues. She also had stints at Covad Communications and CTIA, the trade association representing the wireless industry.

Clyburn, the daughter of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, has served on South Carolina’s Public Service Commission since 1998. She currently heads the Washington arm of the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners.

CTIA was one of the many industry groups that rushed to praise Baker’s selection.

“On behalf of the wireless industry, I congratulate Meredith Atwell Baker on her pending nomination to serve as a commissioner at the FCC,” CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said in a statement. “Ms. Baker has an extensive background in telecommunications policy and understanding of the key issues affecting U.S. wireless consumers.”

Sprint, Verizon, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and others offered similar plaudits.

Update adds information about Senate confirmation of Genachowski, McDowell and Strickling.

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