Net neutrality back as Biden appoints Clyburn to team

Net neutrality back as Biden appoints Clyburn to FCC transition team

19 November 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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US president-elect Joe Biden has appointed Mignon Clyburn, a former acting chair of the US regulator, to his telecoms transition team.

Clyburn served a Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for nine years, having been appointed during the Barack Obama administration. She is seen as a notable supporter of net neutrality, a policy that was abolished during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Clyburn was also acting chairwoman of the regulator from April to October 2013 – a record that perhaps puts her in lead position to chair the FCC after Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.

However, Clyburn, a former newspaper publisher in her home state of South Carolina, has joined the board of directors of cloud communications company RingCentral. “She has been a tireless advocate for addressing the digital divide and promoting diversity and inclusion,” said RingCentral chairman and CEO Vlad Shmunis.

Joining Clyburn on Biden’s FCC transition team are Edward Smith, a lawyer with DLA Piper who specialises in wireless and satellite technology, John Williams, counsel to the House of Representatives judiciary committee, and Paul de Sa, a former partner with consulting firm McKinsey. All four are volunteers.

During her time with the FCC, Clyburn held that internet service providers should be utilities and promoted universal service rules that are intended to expand access to telecoms services. She left the FCC as Ajit Pai, appointed to the chairmanship by Trump, abolished net neutraily. She tweeted just before she went: “Today it is official: @FCC majority has taken the next step in handing the keys to the internet over to billion-dollar #broadband providers by publishing the #NetNeutrality repeal order in the Federal Register.” 

While at DLA Piper Smith worked on the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, which was completed in April 2020. At the FCC he worked on spectrum issues. De Sa led the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning for some of his time there. Williams also spent time in the FCC, at its Office of General Counsel.

Under the US constitution, Biden is due to become president on 20 January 2021. Last week AT&T named former FCC chairman William Kennard – also a Democrat – as the next chairman of the company, to take office in January.