There will be a new face on the Federal Communications Commission next month, assuming that the U.S. senate confirms the nomination of Geoffrey Starks. With the blessing of congressional democrats, president Donald Trump named Stark to replace Mignon Clyburn, who times out of her seat on the commission at the end of this month. Clyburn earlier announced she was retiring from the FCC and wouldn’t seek reappointment.
Besides being a democrat – which is required to fill Clyburn’s seat – Starks is a former federal prosecutor and is currently an assistant chief in the FCC’s enforcement bureau. According to Politico.com Starks “was first brought to the FCC from the Justice Department in 2015 to tackle one of the agency’s ‘thorniest political issues’… waste, fraud, and abuse in universal service fund programs”.
In other words, Starks is a relative newcomer to telecommunications policy. He’s worked as a lawyer and as a legislative aide, including what Politico.com describes as “staff to the Illinois state Democrats — including a then-little-known state senator by the name of Barack Obama”.
Judging by the muted reaction of his presumed new colleagues, Starks is also a relative unknown within the FCC. Jessica Rosenworcel, the other democratic commissioner, said simply “he will be a welcome addition”. Republicans were similarly polite and discreet in their comments, with Michael O’Rielly ’fessing up and saying “I haven’t had a great deal of interactions with Mr. Starks…I look forward to getting to know him”.
Starks will be joining the FCC at a critical time. The repeal of network neutrality rules takes effect on Monday, assuming courts or congress don’t intervene, and an industry wish list of additional anti-competitive regulatory weed whacking is queued up for review in the coming year. His nomination is likely to sail through confirmation – senators traditionally defer to each other when partisan nominations are involved. The FCC is structured so that it has three members from the party occupying the white house and two from the other. Starks can’t take his seat until the formal vote happens, though.