Policymakers

Profiles of the people who make or influence communications policy.

FTC Acting Chairman Ohlhausen Selects D. Bruce Hoffman as Acting Director of the Agency’s Bureau of Competition

Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen announced that she has selected D. Bruce Hoffman, a partner at the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP, to be the Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, effective August 7, 2017. Hoffman is Global Co-Head of Shearman & Sterling’s Antitrust Group, focusing on antitrust and unfair competition, including merger reviews, government investigations, and private and government antitrust litigation. Previously, he led the global competition practice at Hunton & Williams, representing clients in the supermarket, funeral, and music industries, among others. Hoffman earned a B.A. from Penn State University and a J.D. from the University of Florida, College of Law. He served on the Florida Law Review and was the recipient of the W.D. McDonald Prize for graduating first in his law school class.

Acting FTC Chairman Ohlhausen Appoints Neil Chilson as Acting Chief Technologist

Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen has appointed Neil Alan Chilson as the agency’s acting Chief Technologist. Chilson will be primarily responsible for advising Acting Chairman Ohlhausen and the Commission on technology matters, including the FTC’s use of technology, technical aspects of law enforcement actions, and technology policy recommendations. His portfolio will also include managing the FTC’s effort to better understand informational harms.

Chilson was previously an Attorney Advisor in the Acting Chairman’s office, serving as the Chairman’s principal advisor on technology, privacy, and data security matters. Previously, he was an attorney at the law firm of Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, where he handled a wide variety of telecommunications and privacy matters. He received his law degree from the George Washington University Law School, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harding University.

Consumer Technology Association Calls for Swift Confirmation of FCC Nominees

In advance of July 19's Federal Communications Commission nominations hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee, the Consumer Technology Association was calling for a swift vote for confirmation. And the nominees are: Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel for a return engagement, FCC general counsel Brendan Carr for the open Republican seat, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai—he is being renominated given that his term expired at the end of June. Currently the FCC is down to three commissioners, effectively the minimum to get anything done.

Delivering Better Services to the US People

[Commentary] I am excited to embark on the most rewarding work of my career at The United States Digital Service. The USDS is a startup at The White House, using design and technology to deliver better services to the American people. My first project will be helping to untangle, simplify and successfully deliver an improved user experience for veterans on Vets.gov.

“The Vets.gov team is creating a single place for veterans to discover, apply for, track, and manage their benefits online. We are designing with users every step of the way, collaborating with dedicated civil servants, and building the most heavily used and needed services first. As functionality expands and traffic grows, we aim to deliver the best digital experience possible to those who have served our country."

[Randall Weidburg previously worked at Groupon]

NATOA Announces Recipients of 2017 Community Broadband Awards for Outstanding Broadband Endeavors

The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) Board of Directors announced the recipients of NATOA’s 2017 Community Broadband Awards. Since 2007, NATOA has been recognizing exceptional leaders and innovative programs that champion community interests in broadband deployment and adoption in local communities nationwide. Recipients will receive their awards at NATOA’s 37th Annual Conference, to be held in Seattle (WA) from September 11 – 14 at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.

The 2017 Community Broadband Award recipients are:
Community Broadband Hero of the Year: Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director, State of Minnesota Office of Broadband Development
Community Broadband Project of the Year: Longmont Power & Communications, Longmont, CO
Community Broadband Strategic Plan of the Year: Seattle, WA “Strategic Plan for Facilitating Equitable Access to Wireless Broadband”
Community Broadband Digital Equity Project of the Year: Seattle, WA “Technology Matching Fund”
Community Broadband Innovative Partnership of the Year: Garrett County, MD & Declaration Networks Group, Inc.

Outgoing Ethics Chief: US Is ‘Close to a Laughingstock’

Actions by President Trump and his administration have created a historic ethics crisis, the departing head of the Office of Government Ethics said. He called for major changes in federal law to expand the power and reach of the oversight office and combat the threat. Walter M. Shaub Jr., who is resigning as the federal government’s top ethics watchdog on July 18, said the Trump administration had flouted or directly challenged long-accepted norms in a way that threatened to undermine the United States’ ethical standards, which have been admired around the world.

“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility,” Shaub said in a two-hour interview this past weekend — a weekend Mr. Trump let the world know he was spending at a family-owned golf club that was being paid to host the U.S. Women’s Open tournament. “I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.” Shaub called for nearly a dozen legal changes to strengthen the federal ethics system: changes that, in many cases, he had not considered necessary before Mr. Trump’s election. Every other president since the 1970s, Republican or Democrat, worked closely with the ethics office, he said.

Rep Khanna starts PAC-free caucus

Rep Ro Khanna (D-CA) is starting a new caucus for members who have sworn off contributions from political action committees (PACs) or lobbyists.

The caucus, called the NO PAC Caucus, is “designed to encourage members of Congress to voluntarily not accept PAC money and to push for legislation that ultimately bans PAC money from Congress,” Rep Khanna said. The caucus has just two other members so far — Reps. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Jared Polis (D-CO) — but Rep Khanna is recruiting Republicans and Democrats, including Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN), Francis Rooney (R-FL) and John Sarbanes (D-MD), to give the caucus bipartisan bona fides. Both President Donald Trump and Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) campaigned on reducing the influence of special interests in Washington, Rep Khanna noted. “I think this is bipartisan,” he said.

House Democrats accuse GOP of trying to 'shield' FCC's network neutrality repeal from oversight

Top House Commerce Committee Democrats rebuked their GOP colleagues for failing to hold any oversight hearings of the Federal Communications Commission amid the FCC's efforts to strike network neutrality regulations.

Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep Mike Doyle (D-PA), the top Democrat on the technology subcommittee, suggested in a letter that House Republicans are trying to “shield the FCC from having to explain its push to install such unpopular policies,” like the repeal of net neutrality rules. “This Committee has an obligation to perform oversight on behalf of the American people and ensure that the American people understand the consequences of the FCC’s actions,” they wrote in the letter to full Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Ajit Pai: the man who could destroy the open internet

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has a reputation as a nice guy who remembers co-workers’ birthdays and their children’s names. After he was targeted by trolls on Twitter, he took it in good humor, participating in a video where he read and responded to “mean tweets”. This is the man who could destroy the open internet.

Chairman Pai argues that if the US introduced strong net neutrality protections, authoritarian states would have an excuse to clamp down on online freedoms – in spite of the fact that authoritarian states don’t need an excuse to do so. He also says that legislation should only be applied if there’s a market failure. However, as Pai has said, “nothing is broken” and the rules were established on “hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom”.

Chairman Pai Announces Pelkey As Press Secretary

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he has appointed Tina Pelkey as Press Secretary for the Chairman. Pelkey will report to the director of the FCC’s Office of Media Relations. Pelkey most recently served as senior vice president at Black Rock Group, focusing on strategic communications and public affairs. She previously worked in Brussels, Belgium, for Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm. Prior to that, she worked at DCI Group and served as national press secretary for Senator John Cornyn of Texas. Pelkey is a native of Lenexa (KS) and a graduate of the University of Kansas with degrees in journalism and political science.