TR Daily Trump Nominates NTIA Adviser for FCC Commissioner
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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Trump Nominates NTIA Adviser for FCC Commissioner

President Trump today nominated Nathan A. Simington as an FCC Commissioner to fill the seat being vacated by Commissioner Mike O’Rielly. Observers say the decision was made because of Mr. Simington’s support for Mr. Trump’s section 230 Communications Decency Act executive order (TR Daily, May 28).

But FCC and Hill observers said that getting the nomination through the Senate before the end of the current session of Congress would be difficult because of the relatively short time, because Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) wants one of his aides to get the job, and because of the dynamic surrounding the executive order.

“It won’t happen this year. Not enough legislative days,” one source said. “The chances seem very low,” said another.

Another source said a major impediment to Mr. Simington’s confirmation is his “fealty” to the White House concerning Mr. Trump’s executive order. Sources have said that the White House withdrew Mr. O’Rielly’s nomination in August because of comments he made that officials saw as critical of the order (TR Daily, Aug. 3).

NTIA submitted a petition for rulemaking to the FCC in July in response to the executive order, which aimed to limit or remove Internet platforms’ immunity from liability for third-party content and for the manner in which they police such content (TR Daily, July 27). NTIA asked the FCC to clarify the circumstances under which Internet intermediaries are entitled to the liability protections and for clarification of when a provider is considered to be acting in “good faith.”

Mr. Simington, who works on network and telecom policy at NTIA, is believed to have helped draft the petition and be supportive of it, according to sources.

“He certainly would be on board with the Administration’s views on Section 230,” Blair Levin, an adviser at New Street Research LLP, said in a research note earlier this week. But he added that “we don’t see his nomination getting through before a new Senate as a combination of limited time, Republican staff opposition and concern about the narrowness of his background and concerns might be hard to swallow for some Republicans. Still, it does provide a glimpse into the priorities of the White House for the FCC for a potential second Trump term.”

In a statement today, Sen. Wicker said, “The President has underscored the importance of this nomination, and I hope the Committee will move expeditiously.”

Sen. Wicker is believed to want the nominee to be Crystal Tully, deputy staff director of the committee, for the FCC post, or another aide, Olivia Trusty (TR Daily, Aug. 17).

Sources had previously said that Mr. Trump planned to nominate Carolyn Roddy, another NTIA senior adviser (TR Daily, Aug. 7).

In a tweet last night, Mr. O’Rielly extended “my sincere congrats to Mr. Simington for selection to join @FCC, and offer best wishes for a smooth confirmation process and successful term at the Commission.”

Commissioner O’Rielly’s second term expired on June 30, 2019. By statute, if he is not confirmed to another term, he is allowed to continue serving until the earlier of the end of the current legislative session or the confirmation of a successor. Mr. Simington’s five-year term would run as of July 1, 2019.

Mr. Simington joined NTIA as a senior adviser in June. “Among his many responsibilities across the telecommunications industry, he works on 5G security and secure supply chains, the American Broadband Initiative, and is NTIA’s representative to the Government Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers,” the White House said in a news release on his nomination.

“Prior to his appointment at NTIA, Mr. Simington was Senior Counsel to Brightstar Corporation, a leading international company in the wireless industry. In this role, he negotiated deals with companies across the spectrum of the telecommunications and internet industry, including most of the world’s leading wireless carriers,” the release said.

Before joining Brightstar, Mr. Simington was an associate at Mayer Brown LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago and Chapman and Cutler LLP in Washington, according to his resume. He earned a law degree from the University of Michigan, master’s degrees in music theory and violin performance from the University of Rochester, and a bachelor’s degree from Lawrence University. The White House release said that Mr. Simington is originally from Saskatoon, Canada and that he became a U.S. citizen in 2017.

Mr. Simington couldn’t be reached for comment today.

In a tweet today, Free State Foundation President Randolph May said, “I don't know @NTIAgov Mr. Simington, and if he is confirmed I wish him well. But I do know @mikeofcc, and considering his devotion to the FCC, his experience and expertise, and his free market philosophical grounding, when he departs, he leaves big shoes to fill.”

CTIA President and Chief Executive Officer Meredith Attwell Baker said that “CTIA and the wireless industry congratulate Nathan Simington on his nomination as an FCC Commissioner. 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.”

National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Gordon Smith said that “NAB congratulates Nathan Simington on his nomination to the FCC. We wish him the best during the confirmation process and look forward to working with him on the critical issues affecting local radio and TV broadcasters should he be confirmed to the Commission.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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