As pointed out last week when the U.S. Senate confirmed and President Obama then swore in Tom Wheeler as the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, and Michael O’Rielly to fill the open Republican seat on Commission, there is a lot of work to be done and an urgency to get going fast. Clearly Chairman Wheeler recognized the sense of urgency and has announced a series of staff appointments that are interesting mix of talented people with diverse backgrounds.
In making the announcement of his staff, Wheeler noted: This team will hit the ground running. With critical work to be accomplished for the American people and the Internet becoming ever more important in the lives of consumers and businesses across the nation, this team provides an excellent mix of governmental, private-sector and public-interest expertise. They will join the many talented and dedicated professionals of the FCC, as we work to continue serving the public interest during an era of great technological change.”
New staff members are as follows.
Ruth Milkman, Chief of Staff
Ms. Milkman served as Chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau from August 2009 to June 2011, and from June 2012 until the present. From June 2011 to June 2012, Ms. Milkman was Special Counsel to the Chairman for Innovation in Government. Previous experience at the Commission between 1986 and 1998 included serving as Deputy Chief of the International and Common Carrier Bureaus, and as Senior Legal Advisor to Chairman Reed Hundt. Ms. Milkman also was a founding partner of Lawler, Metzger, Milkman & Keeney, LLC and served as a law clerk to the Honorable J. Harvie Wilkinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Philip Verveer, Senior Counselor to the Chairman
Ambassador Verveer served from 2009-2013 as U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State and, before that practiced communications and antitrust law in the government and in private law firms for more than 35 years. Ambassador Verveer’s previous service at the Commission includes tenure as the Chief of the Cable Television Bureau, the Broadcast Bureau, and the Common Carrier Bureau, where he participated in a series of decisions that enabled increased competition in video and telephone services and limited regulation of information services.
Gigi B. Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs
Ms. Sohn has served since 2001 as the President and CEO of Public Knowledge and, from 2011-2013 as the Co-Chair of the board of directors of the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG). She has served on the board of the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC) and on the Advisory Board of the Center for Copyright Information. In October 1997, President Clinton appointed Ms. Sohn to serve as a member of his Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.
Diane Cornell, Special Counsel.
Ms. Cornell has served as Vice President for Government Affairs at Inmarsat and Vice President, Regulatory Policy at CTIA, The Wireless Association. Ms. Cornell previously worked at the FCC, where she served as a Legal Advisor to three Commissioners, Chief of Staff of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and Division Chief in the International and Common Carrier Bureaus. Ms. Cornell is a former President of the Federal Communications Bar Association and was previously a director of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). Ms. Cornell will have responsibility for issues in the International Bureau, as well as for FCC process reform.
Daniel Alvarez will serve as a legal advisor to the Chairman, with responsibility for issues in the Wireline Competition and Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureaus.
Mr. Alvarez has practiced law at the firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP since 2005.
Renee Gregory will serve as a legal advisor to the Chairman, with responsibility for issues in the Office of Engineering and Technology and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, as well as incentive auction issues.
Ms. Gregory has worked at the Commission since 2012, first as a legal advisor to Chairman Genachowski and then as Chief of Staff of the Office of Engineering and Technology. Previously, she practiced law at the firms of Wiltshire & Grannis and Holland & Knight.
Maria Kirby will serve as a legal advisor to the Chairman, with responsibility for issues in the Media, Consumer and Governmental Affairs and Enforcement Bureaus.
Ms. Kirby has served since 2012 as a legal advisor to the Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Previously, she worked in the New York City Office of Federal Affairs and for the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Deborah Ridley, Confidential Assistant to the Chairman.
Ms. Ridley has more than 20 years of executive administrative experience. She has held positions in the federal government, the banking industry and private not-for-profit organizations. Her titles have included Executive Assistant, Office Manager and Conference Services Manager. Most recently, she served as the executive assistant to the Chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Sagar Doshi, Special Assistant to the Chairman Mr. Doshi is a graduate of Stanford University who has worked at Google and Protocol Link, Inc.
In addition to the top level appointments, the following staff will also be joining the Commission:
Jon Sallet will serve as Interim Director of the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force and will become Acting General Counsel upon General Counsel Sean Lev’s departure before the end of the year.
Mr. Sallet has been a partner in three law firms, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Jenner & Block and Miller, and Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, and served as Chief Policy Counsel for MCI Telecommunications, later MCI WorldCom. Mr. Sallet also served as Director of the Office of Policy & Strategic Planning for the Department of Commerce, and was a law clerk to the Honorable Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and the Honorable Edward A. Tamm of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Jon Wilkins, Acting Managing Director and Advisor to the Chairman for Management.
Mr. Wilkins will join the Commission from McKinsey & Company, where he has been a partner in McKinsey’s Telecommunications, Media, and Technology practice since 2003. He served on the Obama-Biden Transition Project in 2008 as a member of the senior leadership group for agency review. Earlier in his career, Mr. Wilkins also served at the FCC in the Office of Plans and Policy in 1998-1999, working on digital television, cable, and broadband policy development efforts.
Roger Sherman, Acting Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
Mr. Sherman previously served as the Democratic Chief Counsel to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and as Democratic Staff Director to its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. During the 111th Congress (2009-2011), Mr. Sherman was Chief Counsel for Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and during the 110th Congress (2007-2009) he was Deputy Chief Counsel at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Mr. Sherman also worked for Representative Henry Waxman as a legislative assistant from 1990-1992 and as a legislative aide to Senator Alan Cranston from 1989-1990. Prior to returning to Capitol Hill in 2007, Mr. Sherman spent 10 years as a Director of Regulatory Affairs and Senior Attorney at Sprint Corporation and practiced law at the firm of Wiley, Rein.
Given the breadth and depth of challenges the FCC will be dealing with, Wheeler’s decision to rely on such a diverse team while not surprising is critical for enabling the Commission to literally hit the ground running. Sprinkled in the mix of Commission hands staying on are individuals with in some cases past FCC roles in their backgrounds and expertise in critical areas such as international issues, wireless, security, privacy, and competition.
It should also be noted that Chairman Wheeler, while obviously tapping his own cable and wireless experiences along with his political roots, in this first round made sure to have staff which a congressional background as well. It is no secret that much of what the FCC does ends up later being adjudicated given the powerful interests the Commission regulates, but with so much potential legislation, or at least significant pressure, heading from Capitol Hill to M Street on things like privacy, net neutrality, etc., as an former lobbyist himself Wheeler has wisely made it a first order priority to stay in close touch with the Congress.
Some of the names above might not be familiar to many in the various industries that come under FCC purview, but there can be little doubt that this will change very fast. Team Wheeler has taken shape, and the first several months of the new regime are going to keep them very busy indeed.
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