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Senate committee to vote on Republican FCC nominee

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Senate committee to vote on Republican FCC nominee

A Republican nominated to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission will receive a committee vote this week determining whether the full Senate will have a chance to vote on his nomination.

The Senate Commerce Committee is set to vote on the nomination of Nathan Simington on Dec. 2. If confirmed by the committee, his nomination would advance to the full Senate for final confirmation.

Simington acknowledged during a nomination hearing Nov. 10 that he played a role in drafting a petition that was mandated under a controversial social media executive order signed by Trump on May 28.

As ordered by Trump, the petition asks the FCC to review and clarify certain legal protections provided under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a piece of legislation that protects internet platforms from civil and criminal liability for content created and posted by users.

Simington drafted the petition while working as a senior adviser at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency within the Department of Commerce principally responsible for advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues.

After reviewing the NTIA petition, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said he intends to move forward on the matter, but it remains unclear if he will act before the presidential transition. The petition asked the agency to review the statute and propose regulations to clarify the scope of immunity. It also requested that the agency clarify conditions where restricting access to material is not done in good faith.

The nomination would fill the seat of Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who was going through the reconfirmation process for another term when his nomination was withdrawn in August.

Trump did not give a reason for withdrawing O'Rielly's nomination, though some political observers believe it may have had to do with the commissioner's comments relating to First Amendment protections and the FCC's authority to define certain legal protections under Section 230.

Simington said during the hearing that if confirmed, the first thing he would do is go to the FCC ethics office and discuss whether he should recuse himself on the issue.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during the Nov. 10 hearing that he will put a hold on Simington's nomination as long as Simington declines to commit to recusing himself.

During his nomination hearing, Simington said he supports reforming the liability shield and thinks an FCC rulemaking effort is a good idea. Simington also appeared to suggest that he is opposed to the prospect of a nationalized 5G network, which has been considered by the Trump administration before.

Notably, Chairman Pai himself announced on Nov. 30 that he plans to leave the agency on Jan. 20, 2021. The announcement makes it likely that Democrats will capture a political majority on the commission after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Government

Dec. 2 A subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will host a hearing titled "State and Local Cybersecurity: Defending Our Communities from Cyber Threats amid COVID-19."
Dec. 2 The Senate Commerce Committee will host an executive session to consider the nomination of Nathan Simington to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission.
Industry, legal and think tank events
Dec. 1 The Brookings Institution will host an event titled "The future of tech antitrust in the Biden administration."
Dec. 1-3 APCO International, an organization of public safety communications professionals, will host an event titled "Emerging Technology Forum."
Dec. 2 Silicon Flatirons, a center for innovation at the University of Colorado Boulder, will host an event titled "The Growing Use of Artificial Intelligence by Government in Courts and Agencies."
Dec. 2 The Institute for Security and Technology will host an event titled "Biden Administration Cyber Agenda Discussion."
Dec. 3 USTelecom will host a broadband investment forum.
Dec. 3 The Wilson Center, a policy research organization chartered by Congress, will host an event titled "Assessing the AI Agenda: Policy Opportunities and Challenges in the 117th Congress."


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