Senate Committee Likely to OK Strickling as NTIA Head, Chopra as CTO

Broadband Stimulus, NTIA May 19th, 2009

, Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2009 – With little questioning or controversy, the Senate Commerce Committee appeared poised ready after a Tuesday hearing to submit to the full Senate for confirmation the nominations of two key technology officials in the Obama administration.

Lawrence Strickling has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Telecommunications and Information, and head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Aneesh Chopra has been nominated to be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer.

As head of the Commerce Department agency responsible for the bulk of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus, Strickling would be poised to play a key role in the administration’s de facto broadband policy.

Of the total, $4.7 billion will run through Commerce, and $2.5 billion through the Agriculture Department. The program is designed to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved American communities.

NTIA is also responsible for the nation’s final transition to digital television.

“President Obama was elected to bring change to our nation,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “Advancing these shared goals of progress and prosperity will require your best efforts,” he told the nominees.

Warner saved a great deal of praise for Chopra, who currently serves as Virginia Secretary of Technology, a position in which Warner said Chopra has “performed admirably.”

Warner and Chopra recently served as co-chairs of Virginia’s Broadband Roundtable, which Warner called “an effort to expand rural broadband access so that no region would be left behind in a global economy.”

If confirmed, Strickling would bring a quarter-century of experience in both the public and private sectors to the NTIA. He began his career in the telecommunications industry as a legal adviser to Ameritech, one of the nascent “Baby Bell” companies created after the 1983 breakup of AT&T’s local phone service monopoly. He later served at the FCC as Chief of the Common Carrier Bureau (now the Wireline Competition Bureau) during the Clinton administration, from 1998-20000, under Chairman Reed Hundt and later William Kennard.

Chopra and Strickling both stressed the importance of expanding Americans’ access to broadband service during their prepared remarks. “Technology and innovation are hallmarks of the American story,” Chopra said. Encouraging adoption of technology can make America “more competitive, communications more affordable, broadband more abundant…and Americans more safe and secure,” he said.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that all Americans have access to modern communications services,” Strickling said. “The internet plays such an important role in the day-to-day lives of so many of us that those…who are not connected risk being left behind,” he said.

Also appearing before the committee were the President’s nominees for the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs.

With little to no opposition expressed by those Senators present, it is expected the Committee will vote to advance the slate of nominations to the full Senate during a markup tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.

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