Former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is one of the members of President-elect Joe Biden’s FCC Review Team, which was announced on Monday.
The team will be led by John Williams, whose LinkedIn profile lists his current position as senior counsel and parliamentarian at the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. He previously served as senior counsel and senior agency official for privacy at the FCC.
Other members of the team include Edward “Smitty” Smith II, a former aide to Chairman Tom Wheeler who currently is a managing partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm DLA Piper. Smith also previously worked for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and ran for the D.C. attorney general position in 2014.
Also on the team is Paul de Sa, a former FCC staff member who now works with Quadra Partners, a telecom consulting firm. While at the FCC, he served two terms, from 2009-2012 and 2016-2017, serving as chief of the Office of Strategic Planning, with a focus on merger reviews, spectrum policy and broadband.
It’s unknown who will be the next chair of the Democratic-led commission, the majority of which follows the party of whoever is the current sitting president. Clyburn has been seen as a leading candidate for the job, but it’s not clear if she wants it. She served on the commission during President Barack Obama’s administration and was designated as acting chairwoman for several months in 2013 before Wheeler took over.
The transition team for the FCC was noticeably absent from a list of agency review teams released by the Biden/Vice President-elect Kamala Harris collective last week.
In a report for investors over the weekend, New Street Research analysts said the delay likely was not, as some believed, caused by an ideological split about who should be on the team. Like the other Biden teams, the FCC team is composed of experienced professionals, many of whom served in previous Democratic administrations.
“We think it represented a problem caused by the GSA not signing the usual letter signaling the start of the transition,” wrote analyst Blair Levin. “There are probably team members who are current government employees and as such, they cannot be detailed to the transition until the GSA recognizes the transition as a legal government entity.”
Levin followed that up with a note on Monday saying the appointment of Williams appeared to confirm that view. “More importantly for investors, the appointment of the team reinforces our view that the Biden policy effort will largely be in line with the policies of the Obama/Biden era, but with an increased emphasis about addressing the digital divide issues made more urgent by COVID,” Levin wrote.
President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace outgoing Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, Nathan Simington, testified during a Senate Commerce committee nominations hearing last week. Politico reported that although the Senate Commerce committee is holding a markup of telecom bills on Wednesday, November 18, Simington’s nomination is not on the agenda.
Both of the Democratic commissioners currently on the commission, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, issued statements last week calling for a pause in controversial activity during the transition. Starks noted that it’s long-standing commission practice that, upon a presidential transition, the agency suspends its consideration of any partisan, controversial items until the transition period is complete.