FTC, FCC nominees go before senators amid hot-button tech issues

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 4, 2012 11:52am EST

WASHINGTON Dec 4 (Reuters) - U.S. senators will question nominees to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday in a confirmation hearing expected to touch on some of the most critical issues affecting high technology companies.

Economist and law school professor Joshua Wright has been nominated to the FTC as a Republican. The agency has been investigating search engine giant Google for months because of allegations it broke antitrust law, and is thought to be getting close to a decision.

Senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will also be questioning Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat and the daughter of South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn.

Mignon Clyburn has been nominated for a second term at the FCC, which regulates telecommunications. She joined the commission in 2009.

The FCC, which along with the Justice Department stopped AT&T's merger with T-Mobile USA last year, has at least two hot-button issues on its plate.

It is organizing an auction of spectrum now owned by broadcasters in hopes that it will ease wireless carriers' spectrum crunch. And it is seeking to require Dish Network Corp to use lower power in a spectrum band to prevent its signal from bleeding into adjacent spectrum.

Wright, who teaches at the George Mason University School of Law, was a controversial choice for the FTC since he is a conservative Republican and has written papers challenging allegations that Google broke antitrust law. It is accused of favoring its own content in searches.

Wright has been a research director at the International Center for Law & Economics, which has accepted funding from Google. In addition to a law degree, he has a Ph.D in economics.

If confirmed by the Senate, Wright will replace Republican Thomas Rosch on the agency's five-member commission. Rosch's term has ended.

The commission is also fighting settlements between brand-name drug companies and makers of generics, saying they often lead to delays in bringing the cheaper generic drugs to market. This issue is particularly important to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who is expected to leave the commission soon.

The agency also takes the lead in creating the administration's online privacy policies. Leibowitz has backed a "do not track" option for consumers, which has stalled. The agency is expected to soon release updated rules for protecting the privacy of children on line.

Facebook, Google and other online companies have faced increasing scrutiny and enforcement from privacy regulators as consumers entrust ever-increasing amounts of information about their personal lives to Web services.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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