FTC Nominees Moved Forward, New Jersey Outlines BEAD Concerns, Fiber Utility Network CTO

Two Republicans nominees for the FTC have been pushed through by a subcommittee.

FTC Nominees Moved Forward, New Jersey Outlines BEAD Concerns, Fiber Utility Network CTO
Screenshot of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at Wednesday's Commerce, Energy and Transportation Subcommittee Session

October 18, 2023 – The Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved Wednesday the renomination of one and nomination of two Federal Trade Commission commissioners.

Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, a Democrat, who currently serves as an FTC commissioner, was renominated by the committee. Melissa Holyoak, the solicitor general in Utah, and Andrew Ferguson, the solicitor general in Virginia, were two new republican nominees both approved by the subcommittee.

They now move to a Senate vote.

Along with Slaughter, Alvaro Bedoya currently serves as an FTC commissioner named by President Joe Biden, with his term set to expire in September 2026.

“With Mrs. Holyoak’s and Mr. Ferguson’s confirmations the FTC will be bipartisan once again,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in his opening remarks. Cruz was in support of all three commissioners and cited the now bipartisan representation on the commission as necessary for success.

Despite his support, Cruz called our FTC Chair Lina Khan as having favored partisanship, which he claims has demonstrated a legally suspect agenda. “Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Holyoak will hopefully serve as much needed checks on Chairwoman Khan,” added Cruz.

Previously two republican commissioners Christie Wilson and Noah Phillips vacated their positions over concern of Khan’s leadership.

New Jersey identifies deployment issues in their five-year BEAD plan

New Jersey released its amended five-year action plan for Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment funding this week, which highlighted potential delays in permitting and telecom worker shortages as potential barriers to efficient deployment.

Each state is required to submit a five-year action plan detailing how they intend to spend BEAD money, how they are going to deploy broadband, and any service gaps that need to be addressed among other information.

Despite the fact that New Jersey plans to implement an electronic permitting review system to streamline communication between permitting offices and providers, its plan anticipates a higher rate of permit requests for broadband deployment following BEAD investment, it said.

The state cites high permitting rates in other infrastructure sectors such as sewers and roadways as a potential blow to the system, delaying broadband permit approvals. New Jersey plans to work with permitting offices to streamline this process and make it easier for providers to become a competitive local exchange carrier.

New Jersey’s plan also anticipates a telecom worker shortage of nearly 55,000 jobs by 2026, which it added could “have implications for timely broadband deployment.” The state said it hopes to mitigate those labor force issues by working with the Labor Apprentice Office to create apprenticeship programs meant to fill in those worker gaps.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities initially filed its five-year plan in August of this year, and upon receiving feedback from the National Telecommunications and Information, amended it for resubmission and agreed to release it to the public after a unanimous board vote on October 11.

Fiber Utility Network announces Chris Skelton as CTO

Fiber Utility Network, a coalition of electric cooperatives deploying middle-mile broadband across Alabama, announced Wednesday that Chris Skelton will be its new chief technology officer.

“Chris has roots in Alabama and brings 30 years of experience in the broadband industry. His understanding of the need for broadband in today’s environment gives him deep insights into the technological, financial and operational challenges of building cutting-edge networks,” said FUN board chairman Tom Stackhouse.

Skelton has worked in the broadband industry for several years, previously holding various managerial roles at Comcast before working as an engineering consultant director for the Huntsville Utilities fiber project.

Most recently Skelton served as the chief technology officer for a national service provider, where he was able to launch fiber network projects through grant and private funding, read a press release.

“I’m excited about the robust fiber connections that FUN will deliver to last-mile broadband providers and help them expand their services into all areas of Alabama,” said Skelton in the release.