Trump picks former Brightstar exec for FCC commissioner seat

The White House intends to nominate a senior advisor at the NTIA to serve on the FCC. (Pixabay)

President Trump plans to nominate Nathan Simington, currently a senior advisor in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to the FCC, the White House announced on Tuesday. The nomination must be confirmed in the Senate. 

Simington served as senior counsel to Brightstar Corporation from June 2017 until June 2020, when he joined the NTIA as senior advisor. At NTIA, he works on spectrum allocation, 5G security and internet freedom issues, the latter of which timely correlates to his nomination to the FCC.

Trump had nominated current FCC Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly for another term on the FCC, but abruptly withdrew that in August, presumably after O’Rielly gave a speech where he expressed concerns about regulating social media content.

In May, the Trump administration drafted an executive order requiring the NTIA to petition the FCC for new regulations on social media practices related to Section 230. Simington helped draft that executive order, according to The Verge. Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act protects social media companies from liability for content created by their users and allows them to remove objectionable posts.

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Commenters on Twitter congratulated O’Rielly for taking the high road in his reaction to Simington’s selection. O’Rielly worked tirelessly on issues near and dear to the wireless industry, including getting mid-band spectrum identified and queued for 5G and championing new spectrum for Wi-Fi.

Wireless industry lobbying group CTIA congratulated Simington on his nomination. "He has a wide range of experience in the public and private sectors and strong knowledge of the wireless industry, which will be important as the FCC continues its work to help America lead the emerging 5G economy," said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker in a statement. 

While at Brightstar, Simington negotiated deals with companies across the spectrum of the telecom and internet industries, including most of the world’s leading wireless carriers, the White House noted. As the head lawyer on the advanced mobility products team, he spearheaded numerous international transactions in the devices, towers and services fields and forged relationships with leading telecom equipment manufacturers. Originally from Saskatoon, Canada, he became an American citizen in 2017, according to his bio.

Brightstar, a wireless distributor, was founded in 1997 by former Sprint CEO and Chairman Marcelo Claure, who is now at Softbank, which bought a majority stake in Brightstar back in 2013. Claure is serving as CEO of Softbank Group International and executive chairman of WeWork; he also is on the T-Mobile Board of Directors.

Article updated with additional comment from CTIA.