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Communications Policy In a Clinton Presidency

With Donald Trump's campaign limping into the final stretch, kneecapped by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and the candidate’s claims of media conspiracy and election fraud, it is looking increasingly like Hillary Clinton’s administration will be the one putting the new stamp on communications policy.

Clinton championed network neutrality as Secretary of State, strong network neutrality rules as a senator, is on the record as supporting municipal broadband build-outs and has talked the same talk as President Obama about the importance of universal broadband access.

Clinton could be tougher on mergers than the Obama FCC/Justice Department, which allowed Comcast/NBCU and Direc-TV/AT&T and Charter/TWC/Bright House deals, though not without conditions that Republicans branded onerous.

In an October 2015 interview with, Clinton said she would beef up antitrust enforcement at the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission. “I will direct more resources to hire aggressive regulators who will conduct in-depth industry research to better understand the link between market consolidation and stagnating incomes. Ultimately, this will foster a change in corporate culture that restores competition to the marketplace,” she said.

The first female president would have a number of like candidates for the FCC chairmanship, though the honor of first woman to chair the commission has already been taken by Mignon Clyburn in the interim between Julius Genachowski and Tom Wheeler.

According to various sources, Susan Ness and Karen Kornbluh could be in the running for the post, though if it is not a woman, Blair Levin, a former top FCC official and architect of the National Broadband Plan and its spectrum auction, is another name that has surfaced more than once over the years for that job.

It is not yet clear who would be working on the telecom transition team; Wheeler was a key figure on Obama’s team.

But one Democratic source speaking on background said that Ed Meier, who worked on tech issues for the campaign and is on the team, could take a lead role. Levin could also lend a hand and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, would almost certainly have input.

On the FCC front, Ness is a former commissioner who has made no secret of her willingness to step into the breach, according to various industry sources. Kornbluh also has a resume that dovetails nicely with the job.

Kornbluh—Ambassador Kornbluh at that—is currently executive VP for external affairs at Nielsen, but before that was ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development under President Obama, and served as his policy director when he was a senator. She also has a connection to the Clintons, having served in legislative affairs at the Treasury Department in Bill Clinton’s administration.

Also, a Hillary Clinton administration would at least threaten some of the new money that has come into the political ad market since the Supreme Court allowed corporations and unions to fund more of those ads. Back in July, she released a video promising to put campaign finance reform at the top of her political agenda and propose a Constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision within the first thirty days of her administration. She also pledged to push for better disclosure of campaign funding.

Clinton talked up broadband access and connection as Secretary of State in a speech about global information access, which she likened to freedom of assembly, but at least one public interest group did not like the sound of her take on trying to shut down terrorist recruiting online.

She got a thumbs-down (actually a “frowny face”) in a 2016 Voter Guide from web activist group Free Press for this 2015 interview answer on fighting terrorism in a 2015 interview: “We have to deny them online space. And this is complicated. You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, etc. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating.”

Free Press also points out that Clinton in 2015 wrote a piece in support of the FCC’s preemption of state laws limiting municipal broadband build-outs. But with a court having reversed the FCC’s preemptions in Tennessee and North Carolina, and the Obama Administration deciding not to appeal that decision, that effort would likely have to come through funding and championing municipal build-outs in states not trying to block them.

How much Clinton could get done will also depend a great deal on the makeup of the Congress. Democrats have a good chance of regaining the Senate, according to political handicapper, but Republicans currently have the largest House majority—247 to 188—in almost 100 years.