President Trump has withdrawn the nomination of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, a six-year FCC veteran who was expected by many to be renewed for a third term, as first reported by Reuters. The withdrawal comes less than a week after Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) placed a hold on the nomination over concerns about O’Rielly’s position on a recently approved terrestrial 5G network.
The conflict centers over a controversial 5G network recently approved by the commission. The proposed network would operate on the L-band spectrum traditionally utilized by radar and GPS, operated by Ligado Networks as a low-power terrestrial system. In its proposal, Ligado pledged to report its base stations and operating parameters to avoid any interference with existing L-band users, but critics of the order have remained concerned that the network may interfere with GPS systems.
Sen. Inhofe is one of those critics, saying, “This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition.” As a result, Inhofe sought to block O’Rielly’s nomination “until he publically states that he will vote to overturn the current Ligado Order.”
O’Rielly had also expressed public skepticism over President Trump’s recent executive order, which would task the FCC with oversight over Section 230 and social media moderation more broadly. “As a conservative, I’m troubled voices are stifled by liberal tech leaders,” he wrote on Twitter. “At same time, I’m extremely dedicated to First Amendment which governs much here.”
More recently, he expressed doubts over the FCC’s authority to execute the order as Trump intended. “I have deep reservations they provided any intentional authority for this matter,” he said in a C-SPAN interview in June. The order has moved forward regardless, with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) petitioning for rule-making last week and the FCC opening for public comment on the order earlier today.
O’Rielly’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.