The FCC held its "blink and you missed it" Jan. 30 meeting Wednesday afternoon, but only to thank returning staffers and give a warm welcome its newest member, Democratic commissioner Geoffrey Starks.
The meeting was a pro forma affair after the government shutdown forced the FCC to move its agenda to the Feb. 14 meeting after not being sure when the government would reopen.
In fact that Feb. 14 meeting had been scheduled for Feb. 21, but was moved up in case there was a government shutdown again Feb. 15, when the current three-week continuing resolution expires.
Pai, who acknowledged it was something of a strange gathering, said he knew the past month had been trying given the constant cloud of uncertainty. Pai said after three weeks of furloughs and frustrations he camped out in the lobby to welcome back staffers Monday (Jan. 28).
He extended that welcome in the meeting. He thanked the staff of the operations center and public safety personnel that provided emergency support, as well as field offices dealing with interference issues, including to aviation.
He also said he was grateful for the agencies "remarkably talented and dedicated staff," as well as to be able roll up his sleeves and return to the critical work of advancing the public interest.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel thanked the janitorial and food service contractors who will not get back pay. She called the longest shutdown in government history "unfortunate and reckless," with staffers returning to a torrent of emails to go through and a "jumble of delayed proceedings."
She said they were still digging out from an effort to figure out what deadlines had been missed, issues that may have fallen by the wayside, and complaints that went unanswered. She said what gave her hope were the staffers: "This agency is blessed with people who are uncommonly skilled, unbelievably knowledgeable, and unconditionally devoted to the public interest."
She also thanked the office of managing director who allowed the lights to stay on in the building "longer than most."
"Throughout my career, I’ve focused on protecting the most vulnerable and holding wrongdoers accountable," said Starks in his first public statement as commissioner. "I’ll continue to pursue those goals in my new job. I also look forward to working with
Congress, my fellow commissioners and the FCC’s outstanding staff to advance the public interest. All communities have a right to be heard on communications policy, regardless of their resources. And for my part, I subscribe to the wisdom of Justice Ginsburg who said, 'I'm a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.' I will always be listening and learning."