FCC Commission Nominee Deborah Tate told the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday that she was a uniter, pledging to look out for consumers, families and rural interests while working toward consensus if confirmed to the FCC.
Tate, a Tennessee telecom regulator, only fielded a handful of questions during the hour-long hearing, and Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said he would try to vote on her nomination and that of Democrat FCC Michael Copps by Wednesday and get them confirmed before Congress exits for the holidays.
Tate said that, as a sixth-generation Tennessean, she was concerned about rural issues and was not sure whether industry self-policing efforts on indecency will obviate the need for legislation.
She also appeared, without getting into specifics, to second some of Democrat Michael Copps' concerns about applying the Universal Service Funding that helps pay for communications to underserved areas to broadband and the challenges of rewriting telecommunications legislation to take into account the broadband revolution and other changes.
Tate also agreed that the "sunshine" rule that keeps more than two FCC commissioners from meeting in private should change.
Stevens made it unanimous, saying it was a "stupid" rule and might even be illegal.
Copps said that he had been trying to figure out, with only three sitting commissioners since Monday (Kathleen Abernathy's last day was Friday), whether he could even talk privately with one more commissioner, saying the FCC still wasn't sure whether he could.
Copps said his priorities for a new term would be to clarify what universal service means, tighten media ownership rules, and be able to talk with the other commissioners in private. He said that if members of Congress, the courts and the church are able to meet to talk over issues, then the FCC Commissioners should be able to do so as well.
Tate talked mostly in generalities about working together to find "sound, practical, reasonable solutions" and being a "voice for families and consumers." Copps responded that the sometimes-contentious commissioner could have used her a couple of years ago, when the media ownership rule rewrite bitterly divided the commission.
Tate is filling the remainder of the five-year term of former FCC Chairman Michael Powell. If she and Copps are confirmed, the FCC will continue to be split, two Democrats and two Republicans, until the seat of Kathleen Abernathy is filled, which won't likely be until early next year.
Stevens said he had a meeting at the White House Tuesday morning where the topic of that nomination was being discussed and that the administration said it was working on it.