D.C. Salutes Exiting FCC Commissioner Clyburn

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn's announcement at the April public meeting Tuesday (April 17) that she is exiting the commission before the May public meeting drew comment from industry players, some of whom have butted heads with her over various issues but praised her for her passion for what she believed in, including speaking out for those who needed a voice in Washington.

Clyburn has been on the commission since 2009 and was briefly chairman after Julius Genachowski left and Tom Wheeler was unable to be confirmed due to a hold on his nomination.

Among those who weighed in on her departure was her chairman, Ajit Pai, who released a statement following her announcement, which appeared to come as a surprise to her fellow commissioners.

“She has been a tremendous leader and a committed public servant throughout her time here," said Pai. "As the first woman to head the agency, she led skillfully through a transition and put her on stamp on the Commission, including through her steadfast leadership in telehealth, media diversity, and digital inclusion. I have enjoyed working with her and, even when we have not seen eye-to-eye on policy, I have always held her candor and thoughtfulness in the highest regard. She’s been a wonderful colleague and friend. I wish her nothing but the best and sincerely thank her for her service.”

“Commissioner Clyburn’s announcement is sad news for us all," said Michael Copps special counsel to Common Cause and himself a former interim FCC chair. "She gave eloquent and effective voice to many millions who have for so long lacked a voice at the FCC, and her work to make communications policy work for EVERYONE makes her a champion to them and to me.

She’s been a can-do and trailblazing commissioner, and I know she will continue to work valiantly for the common good wherever she goes. Thank you, Mignon. You’re a hero to me.”

“The American public owes a debt of gratitude to Mignon Clyburn for her eight years of service at the FCC where she forcefully championed the public interest and often served as a voice for under-privileged communities," said Michael Powell, president of The Internet & Television Association, and himself a former FCC chair. "Commissioner Clyburn has been a strong advocate of the power of technology to close the digital divide and ensure that every American has the opportunity to participate in the digital economy. I would like to personally thank commissioner Clyburn for her dedication to public service, passion for fighting for the underdog and friendship that we have forged over the years. We wish her all the best in her next chapter.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called her a consumer champion without equal. “Commissioner Clyburn has served the American people with integrity, distinction, and compassion during her nearly nine years at the Commission, and she will be deeply missed,” he said. “Mignon is a voice for the voiceless, always defending the most vulnerable in our society to ensure they are protected against the special interests. Her commitment to defending net neutrality, protecting the Lifeline program, lowering prison phone rates, and so many other critical consumer protection programs has benefited millions of American families. I thank her for her service, and I wish her the best of success in her next endeavor.”

“Commissioner Clyburn has served her role at the FCC with distinction and has a deep understanding of how wireless connectivity can empower consumers and provide new opportunities to educators and health care professionals," said Meredith Attwell Baker, president of CTIA and a former FCC commissioner. "She has been a steadfast advocate for harnessing the power of wireless to help diverse communities. It was a pleasure to serve with my friend – the first woman to lead the agency – at the Commission and I wish her well on her next steps.”

"From ACA's perspective, Commissioner Clyburn had no equal in understanding the value that independent providers deliver to their communities and the big impact they are having," said American Cable Association President Matthew Polka. "Commissioner Clyburn defended the interests of these providers on many occasions, especially in connection with the harms posed by the Comcast-NBC Universal transaction that the agency approved with key conditions in 2011..."ACA appreciates that Commissioner Clyburn generated an important discussion at the FCC on ways to promote the availability of diverse and independent sources of video programming, an issue that independent cable operators and independent programmers care deeply about."

“Mignon Clyburn will leave an indelible mark on the FCC," said Verizon SVP Kathy Grillo. "In addition to making history by being the first woman to chair the FCC, throughout her tenure commissioner Clyburn was a passionate and effective advocate for the public interest, with a particular eye towards looking out for those Americans most in need. Among other issues, commissioner Clyburn showed strong leadership on such issues as strengthening the Lifeline program, reforming prison payphone rates, and addressing the digital divide," she said. "While we did not always agree on every issue, commissioner Clyburn has always been a professional who was willing to listen, engage and work towards a potential compromise.

“Mignon Clyburn has served the Commission with distinction, dedication and humility over the past eight years," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "She has been a passionate voice on behalf of consumers and a champion of diversity in the media marketplace during her tenure. NAB and America’s broadcasters wish commissioner Clyburn well on her future path," which said Tuesday is not yet set.

“Commissioner Clyburn has been a consummate public servant," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. "She has worked tirelessly to promote diversity, to improve rural broadband, and to put consumers first. She will be missed at the Commission but I am sure she is not done fighting to give voice to the voiceless.”

Definitely on the same page with Clyburn on issues like network neutrality and media regulation was Gigi Sohn, former head of Public Knowledge and counselor to FCC chair Tom Wheeler, now a Mozilla fellow.

"Mignon Clyburn will go down in history as one of the best FCC Commissioners of all time," said Sohn. "For nearly nine years she has been a vocal and passionate advocate for the public interest and defender of the most vulnerable in our society."

"Commissioner Clyburn has traveled the country, listening to ordinary Americans and using their stories to help shape policies that ensure universal access to affordable and open communications networks. From Lifeline to prison phone reform to media ownership and net neutrality, commissioner Clyburn has been a leader and a model for future leaders of the agency.

Sohn said Clyburn would be "sorely missed."

That sentiment was echoed by the current head of Public Knowledge, Gene Kimmelman.

“Mignon Clyburn used her passion for justice and compassion for the underserved to demonstrate the best of what an FCC commissioner can offer the American people," said Kimmelman. "She set the highest standard of public service and hopefully others will follow in her footsteps to further the public interest.”

“FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn will go down in history as one of the finest public servants to have ever served at the FCC," said Jessica J. González, deputy director and senior counsel at Free Press. "Throughout her tenure, we knew that someone inside the FCC was listening to poor people and people of color and advocating for our communications rights. She has been a courageous warrior for justice...."

“Although it has been evident for some time that my friend and former colleague, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, would be leaving the agency at some point, I have dreaded the day that the news would become official," said Robert McDowell, chief policy advisor to Mobile Future, and also a former FCC commissioner and colleague. "Unfortunately, that day has come. Although I will have more to say later, her service on the FCC should be remembered by her grace, compassion, vision and leadership. America is a better country because Mignon Clyburn not only served on the FCC, but led it. I wish her my deepest personal gratitude and best wishes for what will be a bright future.”

“Competition and consumers have had no better champion than Commissioner Clyburn. She is a fighter filled with grace, substance and passion, who has truly earned the title of the ‘Consumer Commissioner,'" said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. “Her presence on the FCC as a genuine consensus builder will be missed. During her time as interim Chairwoman of the Commission she always strove to move the FCC’s agenda forward with a keen eye toward technology that lifts the boats of all consumers. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to Commissioner Clyburn for being a true competition hero. We thank her for her years of laudatory service.”

“Commissioner Clyburn is a committe and valued public servant whose passion and energy for ensuring every American has access to connectivity, regardless of circumstance, is unmatched," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "Commissioner Clyburn has made a lasting impact at the Commission and inspires through her intellect, her integrity and her tremendous energy. .."

“Since joining the FCC nearly a decade ago, commissioner Clyburn has demonstrated an abiding and admirable commitment to public service," said Joan Marsh, EVP of regulatory and state external affairs for AT&T. "She leaves a tremendous legacy at the Commission of helping Americans most in need and bringing a voice for those who are often overlooked. We wish her all the best in her new endeavors.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.