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US FCC nominees say they're committed to competition

WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) - Nominees to fill the last two seats on the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday said they were committed to regulatory policies that would help consumers and promote competition in the telecommunications industry.

Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, and Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican, were nominated by President Barack Obama at a time when the FCC is crafting a plan on how to bring Internet access to rural parts of the United States.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, repeated his criticism of the agency as having been broken during the Bush administration for siding with the industry at the expense of protecting consumers.

“If confirmed, I pledge to work with each member of this committee to ensure that the FCC is fair, open and transparent, and that it protects consumers, encourages robust competition in the marketplace and champions technological innovation,” Clyburn said in prepared testimony before the committee.

Clyburn is the daughter of House of Representatives Majority Whip James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat.

Mignon Clyburn told the committee that she supports providing “universal, high-speed, high-quality affordable access to broadband” to Americans.

Baker, a former Commerce Department official, told the committee that consumers can benefit from robust competition.

“Healthy competition can benefit consumers and, in many cases, can reduce the need for regulation,” Baker said.

The five-member panel of the FCC is chaired by Julius Genachowski, a former telecommunications industry executive who -- along with Republican Robert McDowell -- were approved by the Senate in June.

Billions of dollars in economic stimulus money has been approved by Congress for states and private companies to expand high-speed Internet in rural and underserved areas.

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

Both nominees also told the committee they were opposed to reinstating the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which once required broadcasters to air controversial issues of public interest.

The full Senate could approve their nominations early next week. (Reporting by John Poirier, 202-898-8399; editing by Carol Bishopric)