WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, the Senate voted along party lines to approve Nathan Simington as a commissioner to the Federal Communications Commission. Simington will take the seat of current Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly, whose term has expired and who must leave the agency this month.
Simington has almost no experience in communications policy. He was picked by Trump after Simington drafted and promoted to right-wing media the White House petition that encourages the FCC to regulate online speech by interpreting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The defeated president has prioritized the effort to undermine social-media platforms’ ability to fact check his false posts about the election outcome.
Simington’s confirmation will leave the FCC with two Republican and two Democratic commissioners after current Chairman Ajit Pai’s announced departure on Jan. 20, the day of President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Free Press Action Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood made the following statement:
“Simington’s confirmation is a cynical Republican ploy to deadlock the Biden FCC. The whole point is to prevent a duly elected new administration and its appointees from getting to work. That’s unacceptable, considering everything that a Biden FCC must do to promote broadband equity, increase media diversity and ensure people can get and stay connected during this pandemic.
“Majority Leader McConnell rammed this confirmation through despite Simington’s utter lack of experience and expertise. But Simington needed only one qualification to pass muster with McConnell: a willingness to obstruct the incoming Biden administration from repairing the damage done under four years of Chairman Pai’s incompetent and unpopular leadership.
“All that the Trump FCC has to show for four years of negligence is nearly 80 million people without adequate home-internet service — tens of millions of them Black and Indigenous people of color, and all of them lacking affordable broadband choices in urban, rural and tribal areas alike.
“The Biden FCC has important work to do. First and foremost is the need to restore the agency’s Title II authority for broadband. That’s essential to everything the agency must do to make broadband more affordable for everyone, modernize the Lifeline program, prohibit broadband shutoffs during the pandemic, increase broadband competition and restore protections against unjust and unreasonable practices by powerful broadband companies.
"Simington lacks even the veneer of expertise needed for this essential work. He’s a very recent administration hire who lied about the extent of his participation in carrying out Trump’s unconstitutional executive order on Section 230, which would make websites unwilling platforms for Trump’s most dangerous and misleading lies.
"Simington’s lack of candor and willing participation in a scheme to turn the FCC into Trump’s speech police should have been disqualifying for the Senate. And a functioning FCC ought to matter to Senate Republicans too, as their constituents also suffer from the digital divide and the lack of competition, diversity and localism in media ownership. Yet Republican lawmakers voted the wrong way when told to do so by a defeated president and their obstructionist Senate majority leader.
“This is a desperate bid by Senate Republicans as their majority still hangs in the balance. But it leaves the FCC with a profoundly unqualified commissioner placed there to prioritize industry pipe dreams and purposeful gridlock over the serious work the agency must do to help people connect and communicate during a national emergency.”