The FCC Short List

In the event that FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn decides not to stay on past the end of her tenure -- or if the president or congressional Democrats decide to nominate someone else -- plenty of names are being floated for the job. The list of potential FCC nominees, which one Capitol Hill source said is the most definitive list around, includes the following:

Gigi Sohn: A former top aide to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Sohn is former head of Public Knowledge and a strong proponent for Title II-based Open Internet regulations, though she was also at the table — with Public Knowledge — for the previous non-Title II-based open internet regulations under then-chairman Julius Genachowski.

Sohn was a familiar face on Capitol Hill as a witness on various issues during her time atop Public Knowledge. A Hill source said Sohn seemed to be getting a lot of buzz for the post, though it usually requires Senate backing and there are other candidates with closer ties.

Danny Sepulveda: His resume includes deputy assistant secretary of State and U.S. coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the Obama administration — Politico tagged him “ambassador to the internet” — and before that, senior adviser to then-senator and future Secretary of State John Kerry (one of those important ties, so long as Kerry still has some pull) and an aide to then-Sen. Barack Obama. He also worked with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and for the National Council of La Raza.

Tim Wu: If he does not get the open Democratic seat on the Federal Trade Commission — an industry source said another name has been floated for that post — he is in the mix for a Clyburn seat.

Wu, a professor at Columbia University, coined “network neutrality,” a term that does not ring pleasantly in the ears of most Republicans, at least when paired with Title II. But he has also suggested the government should take a close look at Google’s search activities, given what he said was “new evidence that it has been favoring its own content in local search.”

Joseph Wender: Wender is senior policy adviser to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and a staffer since 2009. As such, Wender has been at the senator’s side, and ear, through his very public fights for net neutrality, broadband privacy, set-top box rules, children’s TV rules and virtually all the major communications policy issues over that time. One Democratic source said Wender was one to watch, particularly if Markey gets Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and progressives on board, which would be a “formidable combination.”

Roger Sherman: Sherman, probably a long shot, is the former FCC Wireline Bureau Chief and was an aide to then-Sen. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Waxman was chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Sherman is a former Democratic counsel to the House Energy & Commerce Committee, under Rep. Walden’s predecessor, Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and staff director of the Communications Subcommittee. His resume also includes a stint as an attorney at Sprint and he was with Wiley Rein, the law firm that has a reputation as something of a training ground for high FCC posts (the “Wiley” is Dick Wiley, former FCC chair), and sometimes welcoming them back again.

Chanelle Hardy: A list of potential additions to the government would hardly be complete without at least one Google connection. Hardy is currently the Strategic Outreach and External Partnerships director for the search giant. But even more germane, before that post she was Clyburn’s chief of staff.

Hardy is the former head of the National Urban League’s Washington bureau and was chief of staff to then-Rep. Artur Davis — a Democrat who switched to Republican, then switched back again — as well as serving as a staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission.

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.