Senate Commerce Slates Genachowski, McDowell Hearing

Hearing will be June 16 at 2:30 p.m.

It's official...again. The Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday scheduled a confirmation hearing for proposed new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, as well as for the renomination of Robert McDowell for his Republican commission seat.

The hearing will be June 16 at 2:30 p.m. Genachowski's nomination hearing has been scheduled once before, then pulled quickly. This time it is expected to stick since it has been paired with a Republican.

Things seem to be moving more swiftly on the FCC nominee front. McDowell has gone from intention to nominate to official nomination to scheduled hearing in only a week. The White House announced its intention to renominate him June 2, then sent the nomination to the Senate on Monday. As a sitting commissioner his nomination doesn't have to go through background-check and financial vetting.

That leaves two seats to fill, that of Republican Deborah Taylor Tate, who exited in January, and Democrat Jonathan Adelstein, whose term expired last week but who can remain on the commission until someone is named to replace him. Adelstein is actually awaiting that move so he can move over to the USDA, where the president has nominated him to head its Rural Utilities Program, which is handing out billions in broadband stimulus money.

Mignon Clyburn, a South Carolina Utility regulator, has been tapped by the president to fill that slot, while Meredith Attwell Baker, former NTIA acting head, is considered the top candidate for Tate's seat.

If the Senate Comerce Committee votes out the nominations, they must still get a full-Senate vote. That usually comes pretty quickly, although that did not prove the case with proposed new NTIA head Larry Strickling, who appeared to sail through the nomination hearing but did not get a vote with the other nominees sharing that hearing. A lobbyist for Verizon indicated last week he thought Strickling would eventually be approved.

It often takes several months for a new administration to get its top telecom regulators in place, but there are a number of big issues in the sector boiling up at the moment, including the DTV transition and broadband deployment.

For example, the NTIA, the FCC and RUS are all central to the Obama Administration’s national broadband rollout plan. The FCC is currently wroking on that plan, while NTIA and RUS within the next two or three weeks are planning to release the rules of the road for $7.2 billion in broadband grants between them.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps has been teeing up issues for Genachoswki, but the industry is still waiting to see just which direction he plans to drive them.