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FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn resigns

Clyburn announced that Tuesday’s meeting was her last at the FCC

Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a strong advocate for net neutrality and digital inclusion, announced during yesterday’s FCC meeting that she was stepping down.

Clyburn, one of two Democrats on the commission, was nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2013 and has served at the FCC since 2009. She briefly led the agency in 2013 as acting chairwoman, becoming the first woman to do so. Clyburn was widely respected and has been known for blunt critiques of the commission’s current GOP majority, from policy to procedure. Earlier this week, she blasted the FCC’s $40 million settlement with T-Mobile US on rural call completion failures as inadequate, saying it treated consumers as a “mere afterthought.”

“In this case, the punishment does not fit the violation, the process was flawed, and consumers were not made whole,” Clyburn said in her statement on the settlement.

Clyburn’s official term expired in mid-2017, but FCC rules allowed her to stay on until the end of 2018. Clyburn said that this week’s FCC meeting was her final meeting as a commissioner. The five-member FCC has been fully seated since August 2017, when Commissioner Brendan Carr came aboard. Politico has reported that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this year recommended Geoffrey Starks, who is assistant chief in the FCC’s enforcement bureau, to the White House for a seat at the FCC. Starks has also been recommended by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Politico noted that presidents traditionally defer to party leadership when filling commission seats held by the opposing party.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated Clyburn on her “distinguished tenure” at the agency.

“As the first woman to head the agency, she led skillfully through a transition and put her stamp on the
Commission, including through her steadfast leadership in telehealth, media diversity, and
digital inclusion,” Pai said. “I have enjoyed working with her and, even when we have not seen eye-to-eye
on policy, I have always held her candor and thoughtfulness in the highest regard. She’s
been a wonderful colleague and friend. I wish her nothing but the best and sincerely thank her
for her service.”

Fellow Democrat and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Clyburn’s frequent ally in dissent, called Clyburn “a forceful advocate for change, for equal opportunity, and for closing the digital divide. … I am proud to have worked together with her to support net neutrality and grateful to have been her partner in her unwavering work to remedy the grave injustice of exorbitant prison phone rates. As she departs this agency, she should know her legacy is intact because so many who work on communications policy will continue to be guided by her outstanding example. I consider myself among them. In short, Commissioner Clyburn is a dynamo. She represents the best of public service.”

Praise for Clyburn came from a variety of industry groups. She received the Competitive Carriers Associations’ Hall of Fame Award last month.

“Commissioner Clyburn is a true champion of competition; she has never been afraid to stand up for the ‘little guy’ and truly understands the importance of a level playing field throughout the industry,” said CCA President and CEO Steve Berry in a statement. “From her historic leadership on interoperability as interim-Chairwoman to her steadfast work to ensure competitive carriers have access to reasonable roaming agreements and additional spectrum, she has never wavered in her commitment to helping close the digital divide.”

Claude Aiken, president and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association and a former advisor to Clyburn, said in a statement that Clyburn “has made immeasurable contributions to the issues of affordable broadband, a diverse media landscape, and a robustly competitive communications marketplace. She was accessible, well-informed, and a good listener. During my time at the FCC, Commissioner Clyburn was an amazing boss, and remains a dear friend. WISPA [wishes] her all the best in her new endeavors beyond the FCC: she will be sorely missed.”

Former FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler tweeted that Clyburn “has been the conscience of the Commission for almost 9 years.”

Kathy Grillo, Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel, public policy and government affairs, said in a statement that Clyburn “will leave an indelible mark on the FCC. In addition to making history by being the first woman to chair the FCC, throughout her tenure Commissioner Clyburn was a passionate and effective advocate for the public interest, with a particular eye towards looking out for those Americans most in need. Among other issues, Commissioner Clyburn showed strong leadership on such issues as strengthening the Lifeline program, reforming prison payphone rates, and addressing the digital divide.

“While we did not always agree on every issue, Commissioner Clyburn has always been a professional who was willing to listen, engage and work towards a potential compromise.”

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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