Trump Nominates NTIA Advisor for O'Rielly FCC Seat

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President Trump has announced his intention to nominate Nathan Simington to fill the seat being vacated by Michael O'Rielly, whose renomination was withdrawn by the President apparently because O'Rielly was critical of the President's effort to regulate social media.

Simington is currently senior advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is the President's chief communications advisory arm, where he worked on 5G security/supply chain issues.

He also reportedly worked on NTIA's petition to the FCC to come up with the regime for regulating social media that the President had called for and that O'Rielly had criticized.

Simington is formerly senior counsel to wireless company Brightstar, where the White House points out he "negotiated deals with companies across the spectrum of the telecommunications and internet industry, including most of the world’s leading wireless carriers.

Before that he was at powerhouse law firm Kirkland & Ellis as an associate in its corporate practice.

O'Rielly can continue to serve in his post either until Congress adjourns or Simington has had a nomination hearing in the Senate and is confirmed in that body, whichever comes first.

If O'Rielly left before his mandatory exit, it would leave the FCC at a 2-2 tie, which Republicans clearly don't want. And even if he stayed through the end of December, the FCC could be at a 2-2 tie depending on how long it took to vet and vote a successor given the intervention of a presidential election and a lame-duck Congress with few legislative days.  

O'Rielly has already been vetted and voted in the Commerce Committee and had only been awaiting a Senate vote when the President abruptly pulled the nomination, likely over an O'Rielly speech to the Media Institute in which he raised concerns about the negative consequences of regulating social media company content, something the President has pushed.  

But there had also been a hold on O'Rielly's nomination placed by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who was unhappy with an FCC decision to allow Ligado to use spectrum adjacent to GPS for terrestrial broadband. That was a unanimous decision, but O'Rielly's is the only FCC nomination up for renewal and that hold was considered a signal to the whole FCC of Inhofe's unhappiness rather than any desire to derail O'Rielly. 

O'Rielly tweeted his support for his successor, saying: "I extend my sincere congrats to Mr. Simington for selection to join @FCC, and offer best wishes for a smooth confirmation process and successful term at the Commission."

"NAB congratulates Nathan Simington on his nomination to the FCC," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith."We wish him the best during the confirmation process and look forward to working with him on the critical issues affecting local radio and TV broadcasters should he be confirmed to the Commission."

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.