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FCC Will Return to Five Members, Just as Government Shutdown Drags On

The entrance to the Federal Communications
Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstoc

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission will return to five members after the Senate confirmed Geoffrey Starks to a vacant seat.

But his confirmation comes just as the agency prepares to suspend operations amid the partial shutdown of the federal government. Although FCC commissioners are not being furloughed, much of the staff will be sidelined as of midday on Thursday because of the lapse in funding.

The Senate confirmed Starks, a Democrat, along with a full term for Brendan Carr, a Republican who filled a vacancy in 2017 for an unexpired term. Starks’ term runs through June 2022, and Carr’s through December of 2023.

“The agreement to pair and confirm these nominees finally gives us a full FCC to decide important questions about spectrum management, the deployment of broadband to underserved communities, and building next generation wireless networks,” said John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Starks will be one of two Democrats on the FCC, along with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. No party can hold more than three seats on the five-member commission. Starks has served as assistant bureau chief in the FCC’s enforcement bureau, and previously was senior counsel at the office of the deputy attorney general in the Justice Department.

The next FCC open commission meeting is scheduled for Jan. 30. Starks will fill the seat that was held by Mignon Clyburn, who left the FCC last summer.