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Senate Approves Alan Davidson to Head NTIA

Alan Davidson
(Image credit: New America Foundation)

The Senate voted Tuesday (January 11) to approve the nomination of open internet advocate Alan Davidson, a longtime executive with Mozilla and Google, to head the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, but there was plenty of Republican pushback.

As head of NTIA, Davidson will be responsible for overseeing $48 billion in broadband subsidy money authorized in the recently passed infrastructure act.

The vote was 60 to 31, with the majority of Republicans voting against confirming him to the post, though no Republican took the floor to speak against him. Among the Republicans who did vote "aye" was Commerce Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), though Communications Subcommittee ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) voted "no."

That vote came after an over-two hour cloture vote Monday (January 10) to advance the nomination to the full Senate for a vote, which signaled the vote would not be a bipartisan love-fest. 

Also: Jessica Rosenworcel Pledges Cooperation with New NTIA Chief

It also came after Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee that had referred Davidson's nomination to the Senate did come to the floor to speak in support.

She said Davidson understands the public and private sector issues, with a wealth of experience in both. She also said it was key to have more coordination of the billions of dollars in broadband subsidies the Congress has authorized--some $65 billion in new spending--across various agencies and state governments.

Cantwell said that coordination, with the FCC and Department of Agriculture among others--would take a skilled hand, and would also take balancing affordability and access issues, which Davidson understands.

She said there was much work to do in leveraging all that broadband money, but that nothing was more important than getting broadband to homes and securing the grid.

NTIA is the President's chief communications policy advisory arm and oversees government spectrum holders much as the FCC does for private licensees.

Davidson has been senior adviser at the Mozilla Foundation, billed as “a global nonprofit that promotes openness, innovation, and participation on the internet.” Before that he was VP of global policy, trust and security with Mozilla, which was the lead legal challenger to the FCC’s decision under Republican leadership to eliminate net neutrality rules.

He is also a former member of Google's policy shop, heading up government relations in Washington for seven years. He is also a nonprofit leader, having been the director of New America’s Open Technology Institute.

"Alan Davidson’s confirmation brings a tireless public interest advocate to the fore at NTIA at a time of unprecedented opportunity across the full range of the agency’s work," said current OTI director Sarah Morris. "I had the privilege of working with Alan during his time at OTI and know that his commitment to promoting an open and accessible internet for all runs deep." 

Morris echoed Cantwell's sentiments. "His knowledge and experience will be a key asset to NTIA as it works to close the digital divide, improve management of the airwaves, protect digital privacy, and improve coordination across government on a host of other tech policy issues." ■