Mignon Clyburn (pictured) revealed plans to leave her post at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announcing today (17 April) would be her last public meeting as a commissioner.
Appointed to the US regulator in 2009, Clyburn’s second term expired in June 2017. Federal rules allowed her to serve either until the current session of Congress ends in January 2019, or a replacement was appointed.
Her departure will leave an empty seat on the five-member commission. Geoffrey Starks, assistant chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, was previously floated as a possible successor.
Clyburn said her time serving at the FCC was “the most incredible opportunity”, adding she did her “very best” to “make a difference to people who did not believe government was here to serve”.
During her tenure, Clyburn became the first woman to lead the FCC when she served as acting chairwoman in 2013, and staked out positions as a fierce advocate for net neutrality, universal access and stronger media ownership rules.
Under President Obama, Clyburn served as part of a Democratic majority at the FCC, which was responsible for passing net neutrality regulations and consumer privacy protections. In recent months, however, Clyburn has been in the minority on the Republican-dominated commission, fighting a losing battle against chairman Ajit Pai’s deregulation efforts.
Notably, Clyburn vociferously dissented from Pai’s rollback of net neutrality rules, calling the move “legally-lightweight, consumer-harming” and an abdication of the FCC’s responsibility to protect the public interest.
Still, in parting words Pai praised Clyburn as a “tremendous leader and a committed public servant”. Fellow Democrat commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel hailed her as a “dynamo” and a “forceful advocate for change, for equal opportunity, and for closing the digital divide”.
One of the last items to be adopted on Clyburn’s watch was a measure laying out the next steps for the FCC’s upcoming mmWave spectrum auction.
The public notice set a 14 November start date for a 28GHz proceeding, with bidding in a 24GHz auction to immediately follow. Pai noted the FCC is also eyeing start dates in the “near future” for auctions in additional bands.
All told, the FCC said it plans to offer around 6,000 licences through the first two auctions. The commission is currently seeking feedback on auction application and bidding procedures.