Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has reportedly put a hold on the renomination of Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly over the senator's opposition to the FCC's decision to approve Ligado's use of satellite spectrum for terrestrial broadband.
In a report in Politico that the hold had been placed, Randolph May, president of free market think tank Free State Foundation, tweeted his disapproval:
This is a prime example of what’s wrong with Washington. A nominee’s confirmation shouldn’t be bartered for a vote on a particular issue. If @JimInhofe wants to pass legislation (wrongly in my view) reversing @FCC decion, so be it. But holding up @mikeofcc confirmation is wrong! https://t.co/vTQUrtiF57July 29, 2020
The FCC unanimously granted the proposal from Ligado (formerly LightSquared) to use satellite spectrum adjacent to GPS spectrum for terrestrial broadband so long as it meets various conditions to prevent interference with that adjacent GPS, but that hasn't stopped critics on the Hill and in the Trump Administration from slamming the decision and trying to reverse it, Inhofe among them, as his tweets on the subject this week made clear, saying he would continue to fight the FCC until the decision was overturned.
In April, the FCC granted Ligado Networks' request to repurpose spectrum for a terrestrial-based cellular network, which threatens critical GPS & satellite communications signals. This is concerning for military & pubic aviation—who use these signals for aircraft communications.July 29, 2020
While Inhofe and others said the Ligado interference threat is too great, the FCC said there are sufficient protections for GPS.
O'Rielly's nomination was favorably reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee last week for a new, five-year, term on the commission. But a single senator can hold up a full-Senate vote on a nomination.
Such holds are not unusual.
In 2018, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) has put a hold on the renomination of FCC commissioner Brendan Carr, but was is not over anything Carr had done.
It happened to Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who--and this was unusual--eventually had to exit the commission because her term expired before renomination. She was eventually returned to her seat after the political smoke cleared. As with Carr, the hold on her nomination was not related to her or her job performance. Holds can be placed for any reason or no reason and legislators don't have to explain them.
Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler also saw his nomination held up for months by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
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