FCC nominee pledges 'regulatory stability,' in U.S. Senate pitch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Trump administration official nominated to a seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday pledged support for “regulatory stability” but made no mention of an effort to regulate social media companies that had sparked some backlash.

Signage is seen at the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

In written testimony reviewed by Reuters ahead of his Senate Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT) on Tuesday, Nathan Simington said his “first principle is regulatory stability.” He added the FCC “must be thoughtful about potential chilling effects on development if its regulatory efforts go over the line and become intrusive, disruptive and burdensome.”

U.S. President Donald Trump urged speedy action.

“Nate Simington, a very smart and qualified individual, is having his Senate hearing today. Republicans will hopefully confirm him to the FCC ASAP! We need action NOW on this very important nomination!!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday ahead of the hearing.

Simington said the United States needs to do more to ensure millions of Americans have access to high-speed internet.

“For the first time, American telecommunications leadership may be in question,” Simington said. “If some Americans are denied access to advanced technologies, we are thereby denying ourselves the benefit of their contributions.”

Simington’s nomination is in doubt in the current Congress after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, defeating Trump’s bid for a second term.

In September, Trump nominated Simington, a Commerce Department official involved in the administration’s efforts to seek new social media regulations.

Trump has railed against Twitter Inc TWTR.N, Facebook Inc FB.O and other social media firms.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said on Oct. 15 he would move forward to set new rules after Trump ordered the Commerce Department to file an FCC petition seeking to curb legal protections for social media companies over a provision known as “Section 230.” But he has not committed to any action by any specific date.

Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.

Many legal experts and internet companies argue the FCC has no authority to issue regulations under Section 230, while the FCC’s general counsel said Pai has authority.

Last month, two senior Democratic lawmakers noted Trump abruptly pulled his nomination of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly for a new term after O’Rielly questioned whether the FCC had authority to issue new social media regulations. Trump tapped Simington instead.

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