REC Statement: Nomination of Nathan Simington to FCC

With the upcoming vacancy on the Federal Communications Commission as a result of the end of Commissioner O’Rielly’s term that has not been renewed by the President, the current administration has the right to nominate someone to serve as a Commissioner at the FCC.  It is important to remember that the Commission consists of two members from the majority party and two from the minority party and the Chairman, who reflects the majority party at the time.

Last week, the President has announced that he plans to nominate Nathan Simington, a senior advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to fill Commissioner O’Rielly’s seat.  Prior to being at the NTIA, SImington, a Michigan Law School graduate, was senior counsel at Brightstar Corporation, a company that provided services and equipment to wireless carriers. 

The Trump administration, through the NTIA, has advanced a petition, known as RM-11862, that would get the Commission to examine the responsibilities of large social media providers like Facebook and Twitter and their status in the curation and delivery of news stories and how they should be handled in respect to §230 of the Communications Act.  While O’Reilly’s re-nomination was blocked over FCC actions that would permit a company to use spectrum adjacent to GPS for terrestrial broadband, O’Reilly has been outspoken in the past defending the First Amendment rights of the large social media providers.

A significant part of REC Networks’ early history was the pioneering of what we refer to today as “microsystems”, which we define as interactive telephone-based systems, that operate on a small scale, that have many of the characteristics of the modern day social media networks. Very few of these microsystems exist today.  REC’s “no-politics” policy has caused us to proceed with caution in participating in RM-11862.

REC is only concerned that a president (regardless of party), has nominated someone to serve on the Commission solely for the advancement of a single issue.  This leaves us with questions about positions on other issues that are of interest to the modern REC including noncommercial educational broadcasting (including the projected future filing windows), Amateur Radio, a citizen’s ability to access spectrum, the provision of broadcasting and broadband services to rural areas and greater ownership diversity, including in the noncommercial educational broadcast segment.

When the FCC was first created in 1934, it was divided into three divisions: broadcasting, telephone and telegraph. Times have changed from that original “trinity” and now broadcasting is merely a blip on the FCC’s radar.  We consider that “blip” to be very important.  Likewise, we can understand when those who are nominated to the FCC come from backgrounds that relate to modern technology and may hold limited knowledge in the subjects of the 1934 “trinity”.

While we are concerned that this placement is merely to promote the current administration on a single major item (Section §230 and the display of news items on social media networks), we will have five years to work with whomever is confirmed and “bring them up to speed” on the issues that concern REC.

We have said time and time again; LPFM, NCE broadcasting and the other issues that REC addresses are not “liberal” issues, nor are they “conservative” issues.  They concern the public at large. We consider LPFM as a bipartisian service.  This was confirmed with the McCain/Cantwell co-sponsorship of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010

Whomever is confirmed for the FCC, we hope that they pick some knowledgable people to be their staff advisors on various topics.  The staff advisors are the “eyes and ears” for the Commissioners on various subjects.  If Simington is confirmed, we look forward to building a relationship with his chosen advisors on Media and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issues. 

Let’s start with an open mind and a clean slate and let’s see where this can go.  Obviously, actions can lead to further scruitny. We still have a concern over the selection, timed in harmony with RM-11862, but overall, we hope for the best where it comes to broadcasting and other modern issues in REC’s direct jurisdiction.