In a rare move this week, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly – a Republican – had his re-nomination to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) rescinded by President Trump. O’Rielly’s re-nomination first stalled last week when Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, put it on hold over objections to an FCC decision allowing wireless communications firm Ligado Networks access to L-band spectrum. It seems in this case that O’Rielly’s priority of advancing U.S. 5G capability, which he elaborated on in a letter to President Trump in April, was at loggerheads with the Department of Defense’s (“DoD”) fear of GPS interference. Some have also speculated that O’Rielly’s questioning of the recent Executive Order to regulate social media companies’ ability to block harmful posts and accounts was a reason for his dismissal.
In addition to O’Rielly’s nomination being revoked, the Ligado dispute is also making waves on Capitol Hill. A number of lawmakers have sided with the DoD in opposing the Ligado plan. That said, Congress can only overturn this decision through legislation at this point, and it remains to be seen if legislation can make it through both houses and get signed before the end of this congress. It should be noted that there are members of the House and Senate who support the FCC’s decision to allow Ligado access to the L-band including Virginia Senator Mark Warner and Texas Representative Michael Burgess. We will be following these developments to see how it all shakes out and will update accordingly.