The Federal Communications Commission is joining the list of those affected by the government shutdown, closing its doors today just after welcoming two new commissioners.
The only part of the FCC’s daily function that will remain in operation is its response to reports of 911 service outages.
Just before shutting its doors, the FCC saluted the confirmation by the Senate on Wednesday night of two new commissioners to five-year terms — Democrat Geoffrey Starks and Republican Brendan Carr. Their arrival returns the FCC to a full-term slate of five commissioners. In 2018, after Democrat Mignon Clyburn resigned, the FCC continued to operate with four commissioners. Carr had been confirmed to a partial term in 2017.
Under President Donald Trump, the FCC has swung to Republican control under Chairman Ajit Pai, who has pushed through several deregulatory initiatives, including rolling back net neutrality and ending several decades-old local broadcasting rules. The commission is currently reviewing major mergers such as Nexstar’s pending acquisition of Tribune Media and T-Mobile combining with Sprint. It made headlines last summer by effectively blocking the long-developing Sinclair Broadcast Group purchase of Tribune, a reversal of previous moves widely perceived as major benefits to Sinclair, a company closely aligned with Trump and the right.
In a statement, Pai congratulated the new commissioners. Starks, he said, “brings a wealth of experience and expertise, including having served most recently as Assistant Chief in the Enforcement Bureau. During his confirmation hearing, I was excited to hear him highlight the need to expand rural broadband and the power of telemedicine. I look forward to working with him and having a fellow Kansan on the Commission.”
Carr, he said, “has done tremendous work on a number of issues, including his leadership on wireless infrastructure modernization. He has also been a staunch advocate for rural broadband deployment, particularly for precision agriculture and advancements in telemedicine.”
The National Association of Broadcasters called Starks and Carr “two dedicated public servants with a firm grasp on telecommunications policy that will serve the American people well. Broadcasters look forward to working with an FCC that now has its full complement of five members.”