On January 30, 2019, Geoffrey Starks was sworn in as the newest FCC Commissioner, restoring the agency to its full complement of five Commissioners for the first time since the summer. In announcing his swearing in, Commissioner Starks stated he intends to focus on strong FCC enforcement “protecting the most vulnerable and holding wrongdoers accountable.” He added that he will “serve the public interest by encouraging innovation, competition, and security, as well as advancing policies to increase the quality, availability, and affordability of our country’s communications services.” Commissioner Starks joins Commissioner Rosenworcel as one of the two Democratic Commissioners at the FCC. He fills the seat vacated by former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who left in June 2018 after nearly nine years at the FCC, including a stint as acting Chairwoman in 2013. Commissioner Starks will complete Ms. Clyburn’s five-year term, which expires at the end of June 2022. Although Commissioner Starks’ swearing in is not expected to result in any immediate FCC policy shifts, his addition provides a strong voice in favor of Open Internet regulation, Universal Service Fund reform, and enforcement.
Commissioner Starks most recently served as an Assistant Bureau Chief in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, where he primarily worked on competition and Universal Service Fund matters. He joined the Commission in 2015 from the Department of Justice, where he was Senior Counsel in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Prior to that, he was an associate attorney in private practice, a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, a legislative staffer in the Illinois State Senate, and a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs. He earned a degree in social studies and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and then graduated from Yale Law School.
Joining Commissioner Starks’ staff are three FCC veterans. Daudeline Meme will serve as Acting Chief of Staff and Acting Legal Advisor for wireless and international matters. She previously served as Deputy Chief in the FCC’s International Bureau, Legal Advisor to Commissioner Clyburn, Chief of Staff and Assistant Chief for spectrum issues in the Enforcement Bureau, and in the Office of former Chairman Tom Wheeler. Michael Scurato will be Acting Legal Advisor for media and consumer protection matters. He comes from the Enforcement Bureau, where he served as Special Counsel for the Bureau Chief. He previously served as Legal Advisor for Commissioner Clyburn and as Vice President of Policy at the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Commissioner Starks’ Acting Legal Advisor for wireline and public safety matters will be Randy Clarke, who most recently served as FCC counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Before that he was Acting Deputy Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau, where he served in various roles since 2004.
Mr. Starks’ swearing in occurred just prior to his first Commission meeting on January 30—a truncated meeting containing no item votes due to the recently-concluded partial government shutdown. Commissioner Starks takes his seat after a long-delayed confirmation process. He was nominated by President Trump on June 4, 2018, and was slated for a quick confirmation alongside the reconfirmation of Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr. In September 2018, Republican Senator Dan Sullivan placed a hold on Commissioner Carr’s reconfirmation due to concerns over the FCC’s management of the Universal Service Fund Rural Health Care Program. Mr. Starks’ confirmation was delayed as a result, as the Senate intended to vote on the nominees as a package. The hold was lifted in late-December 2018 and Congress confirmed both Mr. Starks and Mr. Carr on January 2, 2019, the last full day of the 115th Congress. Mr. Starks’ swearing in was further delayed due to the government shutdown.