Obama eyes Meredith Baker for U.S. FCC position

Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12pm EDT

* Baker has 12 years of industry experience - White House

* Senate panel likely to pair Baker, Clyburn at hearing

* Verizon, AT&T, Sprint support Baker

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama plans to nominate Meredith Attwell Baker to a Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission, the White House said on Thursday.

Baker has more than 12 years of experience in telecommunications and technology policy in the private and public sector, the White House said. She is a former Commerce Department official.

If formally nominated, the Senate Commerce Committee is likely to pair the nominations of Baker and Mignon Clyburn, who has been nominated to fill a Democratic seat at a hearing. Clyburn is the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.

The White House announcement, which was widely expected, comes one week after the nominations of Julius Genachowski, Obama's Democratic pick to chair the FCC, and Robert McDowell, a Republican, cleared the Senate Commerce Committee.

The full Senate could vote on the nominations of Genachowski, a law school friend of Obama and a technology industry executive, and McDowell as early as this week.

The FCC has been operating under Acting Chairman Michael Copps, a Democrat who is planning to stay on the five-commission panel. Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, is expected to leave.

"Meredith Baker will be a strong, independent voice," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the top Republican on the Senate committee, said in a statement.

Expanding broadband Internet access to rural parts of the United States is among the top priorities the Obama administration wants the FCC to tackle.

The FCC will help oversee billions of dollars in economic stimulus money that Congress approved in incentives for states and private companies to expand high-speed Internet in rural and underserved areas.

The FCC is required to submit a broadband plan to Congress by February.

Industry heavyweights Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), AT&T Inc (T.N) and Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) also expressed their support for Baker.

Baker was vice president at the firm of Williams Mullen Strategies, where she focused on telecommunications, intellectual property and international trade issues.

She is also a former senior counsel at Covad Communications and former director of congressional affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association trade group.

She is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and has a law degree from the University of Houston. She is a member of the Texas State Bar.

(Reporting by John Poirier, additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing Bernard Orr)

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