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Democratic Senators & Consumer Advocates Rally Opposition to Dangerously Unqualified Trump FCC Nominee

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) joined representatives from Fight for the Future, Access Now, Free Press, MediaJustice, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, and United Church of Christ, OC Inc. on a video conference call rallying opposition to the lame duck confirmation of Nathan Simington to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Simington could be confirmed as early as Tuesday.

“Nathan Simington is a deeply dangerous to the FCC. He’s dangerous on the issues: net neutrality, Lifeline, E-Rate, and rural broadband,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “In the midst of a pandemic, what we need is an FCC Commissioner who will champion broadband and connectivity for the millions of Americans who don’t have internet access, including 16 million students. Nathan Simington has proven himself an adversary, not an advocate for online access. He is conflicted, unprepared, and unqualified. The FCC should be truly an independent agency that serves the public interest, not a political football.”

“With the right leadership the FCC can be a tremendous force for improving American lives and getting the economy back on track,” said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). “Unfortunately, Nathan Simington’s only qualification for this job is following Donald Trump’s orders to turn the FCC into government speech police. To protect the open internet, expand broadband to rural and underserved communities, and finally stand up for consumers, instead of Big Cable, the Senate should reject Mr. Simington’s nomination.”

“We are in the middle of a crushing pandemic. Millions are working from home. Kids are sitting outside Taco Bell to do their homework. People are more vulnerable to abuse by Big Telecom companies than ever before. If Senate Republicans move forward with this deeply cynical move to throw sand in the gears and prevent the FCC from functioning, they won’t be ‘owning the libs’ or ‘sticking it to Biden,’ they’ll just be hurting our kids, small businesses, and our communities,” said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future. “Nathan Simington has no qualifications beyond his loyalty to an outgoing, wannabe autocrat. And it’s clear that he would likely use his post to continue Trump’s senseless attacks on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, one of the most important laws protecting free expression and human rights in the digital age. Internet users from across the political spectrum should come together to oppose this, and Senators should listen to their constituents, who overwhelmingly oppose the direction the FCC has taken over the last four years.”

“Confirming Nathan Simington to the FCC will undermine progress at the worst possible time. Instead of focusing on how to prevent mass evictions and utility shut-offs, how to keep people employed, or any number of other priorities, the Senate has decided to spend its precious, limited remaining time to jam through Mr. Simington’s nomination in a cynical ploy to hobble the agency,” said Eric Null, U.S. Policy Manager for Access Now. “The Pai FCC has made a mess of communications policy, and we still need to get more low-income people and people of color online during and after the pandemic, a goal that requires a stable, functional, and efficient FCC. We will not get one by moving forward with Mr. Simington.”

“Free Press is deeply concerned about this effort to deadlock the FCC at 2-2, preventing it from doing the work needed to promote broadband equity, increase media diversity, and ensure people can remain connected during this pandemic. There’s important work to be done, first and foremost restoring Title II authority for broadband. That's the clincher that leads to all the other good things the agency must do to make broadband more affordable for everyone, truly modernize the Lifeline program, prohibit broadband shutoffs during the pandemic, and restore protections against any unjust and unreasonable practices by these broadband companies,” said Gaurav Laroia, Senior Policy Counsel at Free Press Action. “As if Republicans' attempt to hamstring the FCC during the pandemic wasn’t enough, Simington is uniquely unqualified. He lacks even the veneer of expertise needed to help run the Commission. He’s a very recent administration hire, who lied about the extent of his participation in executing Trump’s unconstitutional executive order on Section 230, which attempted to make websites be unwilling platforms for Trump’s most dangerous and misleading lies whether they wanted to or not. Simington's willing participation in a scheme to turn the FCC into the President’s speech police should be disqualifying for the Senate, as should his lack of candor about his role. And a functioning FCC ought to matter to Republicans too, as their constituents are also left behind by the digital divide. The Senate must reject this unserious and deeply problematic nominee.”

“The Senate should table this unnecessary nomination fight and focus on the pandemic relief legislation that everyone has been waiting for since March. Millions of Americans are suffering through the pandemic without access to the internet,” Joshua Stager, Senior Counsel, New America’s Open Technology Institute. “We need FCC commissioners who are laser-focused on this crisis, not waging President Trump's personal vendettas against Twitter. Moreover, the notion that this nominee’s confirmation is explicitly intended to create gridlock at the FCC is galling. The American people don't need gridlock—they need help getting through this pandemic.”

“The pandemic has made people acutely aware of the importance of broadband to our lives. The FCC is the expert agency tasked with ensuring children can access distance learning tools, seniors can interact with their doctors through telehealth services, and families can afford to stay connected to their communities,” said Greg Guice, Government Affairs Director at Public Knowledge. “Confirming Nathan Simington to the FCC during this critical time would jeopardize the agency’s ability to function, resulting in painful consequences for consumers who rely on broadband – and that means everyone. An indefinite deadlock just can't be the right answer during a pandemic.”

“For the Senate to deny the FCC a working majority at the start of the Biden Administration further endangers our country’s ability to respond to the pandemic and endangers fair treatment of all people,” said Cheryl A. Leanza, Policy Advisory for United Church of Christ, OC Inc. “Broadband access for low-income people and completing Chairman Pai’s new docket on prison phone justice will be jeopardized.”

Simington has been nominated to fill a vacancy left by President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly’s re-nomination, whose renewal for another term was pulled after he criticized the administration’s Executive Order targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, punishing social media platforms in blatant violation of the First Amendment. Simington was directly involved in drafting and peddling the proposal.

Simington has almost no relevant experience for the position, and had difficulty answering even basic questions about issues under the FCC’s jurisdiction during his confirmation process. In the middle of a health and economic crisis that has kept millions of Americans away from their schools, workplaces, friends, and family, the FCC’s role in protecting online access is critically necessary.

Simington’s confirmation would likely deadlock the Commission indefinitely, blocking the agency's ability to help Americans access the internet during the pandemic or restore net neutrality. This confirmation would also violate the Senate’s tradition of moving Commissioners in bipartisan pairs.