WASHINGTON, April 30, 2009 – The White House announced its intention to nominate South Carolina Public Service Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to the Federal Communications Commission late Wednesday.
If confirmed, Clyburn would fill the Democratic seat being vacated by Democrat Jonathan Adelstein, who has been tapped to run the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service. She would also fill a seat on the FCC that is by custom occupied by a state-level commissioner, previously Republican Deborah Taylor Tate, who was a director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority before serving on the FCC during the Bush administration.
Clyburn, the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., was first elected to the South Carolina Public Service Commission in 1998. South Carolina PSC members are elected officials who serve four year, staggered terms.
Clyburn has also been in charge of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Washington Action Program for the past three years, coordinating lobbying efforts by state utility commissioners.
Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps hailed the White House announcement of Clyburn, calling her “an excellent choice” to join the commission. “The experience she brings…will be an invaluable asset as we address the many challenges and opportunities that are before us,” he said.
“Senator [Jay] Rockefeller believes Mignon Clyburn will bring to this position an important rural state-based perspective and an understanding of the federal-state dynamic on regulatory issues,” said a spokesman for Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “The Committee’s intent is to move expeditiously to consider all pending nominees as soon as their paperwork is ready.”
Industry reactions to the announcement were universally positive.
National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Kyle McSlarrow said Clyburn “brings an insightful and pragmatic perspective to the complex policy issues that the FCC is tackling in today’s dynamic telecommunications environment.” Her experience at NARUC will make her “an invaluable asset,” he added.
Clyburn’s state-level experience was also invoked by American Cable Association president Matt Polka. “We look forward to working with [Clyburn] on a host of issues,” he said, “including efforts to extend broadband further into unserved areas and boosting download speeds in underserved communities.”
And Sprint Nextel Corp. spokesman John Taylor said Clyburn “would bring experience, deep policy understanding and the perspective of a state utility commissioner to the FCC.”
“Ms. Clyburn’s knowledge of the telecommunications industry and her extensive background and experience in regulatory policy make her an excellent choice for this important post at the FCC,” said Steve Largent, CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association.
Other state commissioners were similarly pleased with the announcement. D.C. Public Services Commission Chairman Betty Ann Kane, who serves alongside Clyburn on the NARUC telecommunications committee, said in an e-mail that she was “delighted,” touting Clyburn as being “familiar with the important role that states have in implementing telecommunications, including broadband access for all segments of the community.”
“I look forward to having an experienced colleague with a strong voice for the states on the Commission,” said Kane.
NARUC communications director Rob Thornmeyer said Clyburn would be missed by her peers, but they look forward to working with her in her new role. Clyburn is “a good fit for the job who knows the issues well,” he said.
And when asked about his daughter’s latest job offer, the elder Rep. Clyburn declined to make any policy related judgments, instead offering fatherly praise: “She is very competent and accomplished,” he said, “someone of whom I am very proud.”