Ligado network approval, questions about regulating social media companies put O’Rielly’s renomination in jeopardy.
The White House recently announced it would withdraw Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Michael O’Rielly’s nomination to serve another term, according to multiple news reports. The announcement came a week after Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe said he’d block O’Reilly’s nomination following the FCC’s unanimous decision to permit Ligado Networks to deploy a low-power nationwide mobile broadband network. The news comes as a surprise given a Senate panel approved O’Rielly’s nomination in July.
The conflict around Ligado stems from its proposed network operating on the L-band spectrum that radar and GPS typically use. Ligado said in its proposal that it would report its base stations and operating parameters to avoid any interference with current L-band users, The Verge reports. The pledge did not ease critics’ concerns about the network potentially interfering with GPS systems, however.
“This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition,” Inhofe said. Inhofe looked to block O’Rielly’s nomination, “until he publically states he will vote to overturn the current Ligado order.”
President Trump withdrew O’Reilly’s nomination after he requested the Commerce Department petition the FCC and ask it to impose new regulations on social media moderation practices.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated the agency would take public comment on the petition that was filed late last month at President Trump’s request. O’Rielly’s position became vulnerable when he expressed skepticism about whether the FCC could issue new regulations covering social media companies. In June, O’Rielly said he had “deep reservations” about whether Congress had granted the commission the authority to limit social media companies’ legal protections.
O’Rielly, who has been on the FCC since 2013, did not comment on if his withdrawal was connected to his social media company regulation remarks.
“The First Amendment protects us from limits on speech imposed by the government – not private actors – and we should all reject demands, in the name of the First Amendment, for private actors to curate or publish speech in a certain way,” O’Rielly said, which got the White Houses’ and industry officials’ attention. “Like it or not, the First Amendment’s protections apply to corporate entities, especially when they engage in editorial decision making. It is time to stop allowing purveyors of First Amendment gibberish to claim they support more speech, when their actions make clear that they would actually curtail it through government action.”
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.