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.
At its December 12 Open Meeting, the FCC adopted its first Communications Marketplace Report, which combines several separate reports into one and is meant to provide a comprehensive overview of the mobile wireless, fixed broadband, audio, video, and satellite communications markets. Congress directed the Commission to complete such a report biennially with its passage of the RAY BAUM’S Act in March 2018. The Act also reauthorized the FCC for the first time in nearly three decades and directed the FCC to take on additional efforts to free up spectrum for commercial mobile and fixed wireless use. Significantly, while the Commission was previously required to include in the Mobile Wireless Competition Report an assessment of whether there is effective competition in the mobile wireless market, whether any carriers have a dominant share of the market, and whether additional carriers would enhance competition, these requirements were struck by the RAY BAUM’S Act when the wireless report was folded into the marketplace report. As a result, the marketplace report does not venture to analyze, or even mention, the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile.
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