i3 | November 17, 2017

FCC Profiles: Get to Know the Commissioners

Julie Kearney

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been in the headlines for hot issues like net neutrality and broadband privacy.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been in the headlines for hot issues like net neutrality and broadband privacy. Behind the headlines, however, are dedicated individuals who, along with a committed staff, are working tirelessly to bring modern communications services to American consumers. We are pleased to share their personal stories. See below for where to look for them at CES 2018.

Q: What is your regulatory philosophy?

Carr: We must always be willing to take a fresh look at any barriers to entry or competition that we can remove, and we must ensure that our regulatory framework supports innovation and entrepreneurship, reflects the realities of today’s dynamic marketplace, and always promotes the public interest.

Clyburn: My philosophy centers on putting #ConsumersFirst. I believe a regulator’s first priority should be to promote policies that help the American consumer meet their needs in an open and competitive marketplace. An effective regulator ensures that all voices — particularly the ones who struggle — are heard in the decision-making halls of Washington, DC. I am committed to that in large part because those voices that most often go unheard belong to the people who raised and led me. At the FCC, the decisions we make have real world onsequences, so our actions must be as rational as they are intentional. As a general matter, I favor less regulation over more, and market-based solutions above government-imposed rules. But make no mistake, I am also a proponent of stepping in and acting, if the market falters or fails. In keeping with that reasoning, I believe we generally accomplish optimal results by using scalpels and fine-tuning as opposed to applying sledge hammers and blunt force trauma.

O’Rielly: I approach my job and consider the substantive items before the Commission as I outlined in my first public speech as a Commissioner in February 2014. At that time and the days since then, I have tried to keep true to my promise that championing economic freedom would be my guiding principle when it comes to overseeing the communications industry. In practice, this can be translated into four main beliefs. First, the Commission must consider whether it has the authority to regulate, as well as the confines of that authority, as it contemplates intervening in any matter. Second, the Commission must have verifiable and specific evidence that there is market failure — meaning bona fide data that an actual problem exists resulting in demonstrable harm to consumers — before acting. Third, when the Commission does intervene,its solution should be carefully tailored and apply only to the relevant set of providers or services. Fourth, the benefit of any Commission regulation must outweigh the burdens being imposed. Together, this foundation has served to ensure that my actions are anchored by a solid, justifiable approach rather than being driven by the latest fad, public opinion poll or wind direction.

Rosenworcel: We want markets that are rife with innovation, choice, and opportunity. But when we don’t see these outcomes, I believe that regulatory action must be guided by the essential values that have informed communications policy in this country for decades. When I look at the law I see four: public safety, competition, universal access, and consumer protection. I believe these principles should be the guideposts in everything we do — because while time marches on and technology changes, our basic values remain strong.

Q: What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Carr: I have two amazing boys — a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old. They are terrific kids and such a joy to spend time with. The 3-year-old is already a big fan of the Washington Nationals and all things sports. The 8-month-old is just starting to crawl and pull up, and he really enjoys not sleeping at night.

Clyburn: Most know that I am a proud daughter of the South, and that my family has strong Palmetto State roots. What they may not know, however, is that as a child, I spent countless weekends and many summers in a small home on the green fields and the dirt roads on my grandparents’ farmland in Moncks Corner, SC swatting flies, shucking corn, and shelling peas in a home with no central heat or air. Today, I find the remoteness of the countryside more beautiful than I did then, but I will never forget how hard it was for my family and their neighbors. What I witnessed in the late 60s and early 70s still holds true for too many. Poverty is a challenge, populations are growing older, and small towns and rural communities are often struggling just to survive. It was this upbringing that has propelled me to pay it forward for these very proud people, so that more communities are able to realize their highest potential.

O’Rielly: I’m a reasonably straightforward individual but most people would be surprised to learn that I love DC’s August heat. Since I grew up outside of Buffalo, NY most people assume that I am partial to that area’s typical weather. While I absolutely adore the people and the experiences from my hometown, I’ve already had plenty of snow, cold and cloudy days. So, I’ll take the boiling, sweltering heat of DC any day if I can still see the sun.

Rosenworcel: My brother is the drummer for the band Guster, so my parents have a rocker and a regulator for children. 

Q: Who or what inspires you?

Carr: I have had the privilege of working at the FCC for more than five years now. One of the most rewarding parts of this experience is getting to work with the professional staff at the agency because they are an extremely talented and dedicated group of individuals. I am also inspired by the tremendous opportunity we have in the tech and telecom space to create jobs, spur investment, and grow the economy for the benefit of all Americans. Getting the chance to play a small part in establishing the regulatory framework that will produce those results is a real privilege.

Clyburn: I am inspired by my parents, grandparents and mentors like the late Marjorie Amos-Frazier. She was the first female elected to the Charleston County Council and the first African-American to serve on the South Carolina Public Service Commission. Not allowed to complete high school in her home county,

she received a high school equivalency degree when she was almost 40 years old. Miss Marjorie embraced her natural ability to lead and merged that with a selfless desire to improve her community. Back in 1994, she encouraged me to run for a seat on the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) representing the Sixth District. While I did not win my first race, it was her confidence in me that led me to run again, win and ultimately serve on the PSC for 14 years.

O’Rielly: It seems most people have one individual or thing that inspires them, but, for me, I am inspired by everyday Americans in the lower to middle income tiers who get up in the morning to face a myriad of life issues thrown at them. Too often, these are people who struggle to survive in the current economic environment, but they march forward with their jobs and family obligations like true champions. They certainly have a bunch of worries about the future, yet they spend most of their time thinking about improving things for their families and doing what is right. That leaves little time to think about the FCC and the work it does. So, I consider it part of my job to keep their daily struggles, especially the impact of costly regulation, in mind as I consider Commission actions. Moreover, it’s the opportunity to help these people that attracted me to government service, and why I am honored to serve in my current role.

Rosenworcel: My children. Viewing the world through their eyes and ears is a hefty reminder that the choices we make today about technology, infrastructure, and access are an inheritance for the next generation. I think how we grapple now with the disrupting and democratizing effects of digitization will play no small role in determining our success in the future.

Q: What is your most memorable travel experience?

Carr: In 2012, before I started working at the FCC, I took three weeks off. I started out in Istanbul before traveling to Vienna, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Krakow, Madrid, Granada and Marrakesh. It was a great trip. I took a few different night trains to link the cities together, and one of the most memorable was traveling overnight from Tangiers to Marrakesh after taking a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Clyburn: As a Commissioner, I have been privileged to travel around the globe, and see technology transforming the lives of everyday people. One of my most memorable experiences was a visit to The Gambia in 2011. It was there that I met women who were shea butter farmers and oyster harvesters who could use their 2G flip phone to find out the current prices for their goods — that is for the few who had them. They told me that a cell phone was more important to them than shoes! Those images and words inspire me to do all in my power to bring ubiquitous and affordable connectivity to every single person in this nation.

Rosenworcel: Too many to count. I’ve loved trips ranging from back-country skiing in Utah, to hiking gorges in Switzerland, to exploring the Thar Desert on the border of India and Pakistan, to surveying ruins in the Cyclades of the coast of Greece, to trekking parts of the Appalachian Trail. There are some people who relax on a hot day with a cold drink by the pool, but I’m not one of them. It might be perverse, but I find travel more relaxing when it includes an adrenaline rush!

O’Rielly: Having never been comfortable with copious amounts of free time, I find work travel can be more of a means to an end rather than a relaxing journey. What I truly enjoy, however, is identifying a couple key take-aways from the last industry conference or site visit that I can incorporate into my work at the Commission. These are the two or three snippets of information, data points or individuals met that made me look at an issue differently or more intensely. While each trip is valuable in its own way, I vividly recall earlier trips to Alaska and Kansas and later to South Dakota for highlighting specific problems resulting from a lack of broadband access. On the personal side, my recent travel memories all involve the beach and my family.

November/December 2017 i3 Cover Issue

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