Senate Commerce Approves Starks Nomination to FCC

The Senate Commerce Committee has unanimously approved the nomination of Geoffrey Starks to succeed Mignon Clyburn as Democratic commissioner on the FCC.

The nomination now moves to a full Senate vote, which is expected to approve it as well. Starks addition will bring the FCC back up to full strength--three Republicans, two Democrats.

Starks has been assistant bureau chief in the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, which is not a typical launching pad for a commission seat, like, say, a Hill communications counsel would be, though the most recent Republican addition, Brendan Carr, came directly from the FCC as well.

Starks has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a law degree from Yale. He also founded a community bank.

Like FCC chairman Ajit Pai, he grew up in Kansas, though the city rather than a small town.

His wife is Lauren Thompson Starks, a former Obama appointee. Starks is also a former staffer to then Sen. Barack Obama and a former attorney with Williams & Connolly in Washington.

His Obama-era government service includes serving under Attorney General Eric Holder at Justice as the lead on financial and healthcare fraud.

The committee held a nomination hearing for Starks Wednesday (June 20), where Committee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) signaled he wanted to move Starks' nomination quickly.

Committee ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called for the Senate to move quickly on Starks' nomination given that Jessica Rosenworcel is the only Democrat on the commission and the only one "holding the line" for consumers, he said.

“ITTA congratulates FCC nominee Geoffrey Starks on the vote today by the Senate Commerce Committee to forward his nomination to a five year term as an FCC commissioner," said Genny Morelli, presidnt of ITTA - The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers. "ITTA is especially pleased that Mr. Starks focused much of his Commerce Committee testimony on his commitment to closing the digital divide in rural America.”

Also in the Senate Commerce markup Wednesday (June 27), the committee passed S.645, Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act of 2017, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Angus King (I-Maine).

Klobuchar said that access to "effective, high-speed" broadband is an economic imperative. Thune agreed, particularly in rural states like his own.

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.