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Biden's FCC transition team features familiar names from Obama era

President-elect Joe Biden's newly unveiled transition team for the Federal Communications Commission includes some familiar names from the Obama administration.

Among the most high-profile is former agency Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who some policy experts view as Biden's likely pick for FCC chair, if she wants the job. The FCC is a key regulatory agency for the technology, media and telecommunications industries.

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Mignon Clyburn
Source: Wikipedia

Clyburn, who left the FCC in 2018, began her service at the agency in August 2009, after spending 11 years as a member of the 6th District on the Public Service Commission of South Carolina. She has described herself as a long-time champion of consumers and a defender of the public interest.

During her FCC tenure, Clyburn pushed for media ownership rules that reflect the demographics of America, affordable universal telephone and high-speed internet access, greater broadband deployment and adoption throughout the nation and transparency in regulation. In 2013, she made history as the first woman to ever head the FCC when she briefly took on the role as interim FCC chair in between the departure of former FCC head Julius Genachowski and the confirmation of his successor, Tom Wheeler.

"Clyburn, having actually led as acting chair … certainly makes her eminently qualified," Chris Lewis, president and CEO of public interest group Public Knowledge, said in September.

Leading the transition team is John Williams, who currently is senior counsel and parliamentarian for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, according to his LinkedIn page. He previously worked at the FCC's Office of General Counsel from 2015 to 2019.

The release of Biden's FCC transition team was a bit later than other agency transition team announcements, which New Street Research Policy Advisor Blair Levin said in an analyst note was likely due to Williams.

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John Williams
Source: LinkedIn

"The appointment of Williams appears to confirm our view ... that the hold up in naming the FCC team probably related to the issues of detailing a current government employee to the transition when the [General Services Administration] has not certified the transition," Levin said.

The GSA must sign off on the election results before Biden can access resources available under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. With President Donald Trump continuing to challenge the election results in multiple states, GSA has said no ascertainment has been made in regards to the winner of the election.

Assuming Biden takes office Jan. 20, 2021, Levin said the appointment of the transition team "reinforces our view that the Biden policy effort will largely be in line with the policies of the Obama/Biden era but with an increased emphasis about addressing the digital divide issues made more urgent by COVID."

The two other members of the transition team are Edward "Smitty" Smith and Paul de Sa. Smith works as a deputy managing partner at the law firm DLA Piper. He is also a former legal advisor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, advising on issues such as wireless telecommunications, engineering and technology.

De Sa is the founder of the Quadra Partners telecom consulting group. He previously worked at the FCC as head of the Office of Strategic Planning.