Clyburn, who was the first woman to lead the FCC when she served as acting chairwoman in 2013, leaves an opening on the five-member commission that is expected to be filled by another Democrat.
“It’s been the most incredible opportunity for me,” Clyburn said at Tuesday’s commission meeting, in which she thanked those she has worked with. “In my wildest dreams, if I could have crafted my destiny, I never would have dreamed of this.”
Clyburn, nominated by President Barack Obama, was a key advocate for the FCC’s net neutrality rules, passed in 2015, and opponent of the rollback of those regulations when Republicans gained a majority on the commission. In advance of the repeal, she traveled to a number of cities, including Los Angeles, where she appeared at an event on Skid Row to make the case for why net neutrality was important to residents daily lives.
She also has been strident in her opposition to recent efforts to relax media ownership rules, and of retaining rules she says boost localism and opportunities for women and minorities.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised Clyburn for her concerns for the public interest and someone who has had a willingness to find a common ground.
Until a successor is confirmed in the Senate, the FCC will have a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans, something that could hobble its ability to pass controversial items. The repeal of most of the net neutrality rules in December, for instance, passed along a 3-2 party line vote. Pai told reports that he hoped that the commission would be “inclined to want to find consensus and practical solutions for the American people.”
Gigi Sohn, counselor to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, said that Clyburn will “go down in history as one of the best FCC Commissioners of all time.”
“She has travelled the country, listening to ordinary Americans and using their stories to help shape policies that ensure universal access to affordable and open communications networks,” Sohn said. She is a fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Mozilla fellow.
Clyburn’s term expired last June, but she had the option of remaining on the commission until the end of this year or until a successor was confirmed by the Senate.