Senate confirms two FCC commissioners, science adviser

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate confirmed Geoffrey Starks to join the Federal Communications Commission and approved a new term for Commissioner Brendan Carr late on Wednesday.

Starks, who serves as assistant bureau chief of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, was nominated in June. He served previously as senior counsel at the U.S. Justice Department.

His nomination was backed by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and is one of two Democratic seats on the five-member FCC. The FCC has been split 3-1 in favor of Republicans since earlier this year.

Carr, who has made next generation 5G wireless technology a key focus, saw his renomination held up by two senators over mobile broadband funding and rural health care issues until they dropped their holds late last month.

The FCC faces a number of significant issues in 2019, including whether to approve T-Mobile US Inc’s proposed $26 billion acquisition deal of Sprint Corp and how to expand internet access to underserved areas.

“The agreement to pair and confirm these nominees finally gives us a full FCC to decide important questions about spectrum management, the deployment of broadband to underserved communities, and building next generation wireless networks,” said Senator John Thune, who chairs the Commerce Committee.

In total, the Senate confirmed 77 nominees late Wednesday in the final hours of the 115th Congress, including Kelvin Droegemeier to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. President Donald Trump had gone 19 months before nominating a chief science adviser in July. Droegemeier, a meteorologist, was previously vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma.

All the nominees were confirmed unanimously by voice vote.

The Senate also confirmed Thomas Gilman, a former chairman and chief executive officer of Chrysler Financial, to be an assistant secretary of the Commerce Department and chief financial officer, Joel Szabat to be an assistant secretary of transportation, and Steven Dillingham to be director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler

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