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FCC nominees approved

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has approved the nominations of four key appointments to the FCC.

    The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today approved the nominations of four key appointments to the Federal Communications Commission, including that of William Kennard as chairman.

    The nominations now move to the Senate floor, where many have predicted they will win final approval in a full chamber vote.

    Kennard, the FCC's general counsel, has vowed to keep rates low for local phone service and cable television. The committee approved his nomination, along with those of Michael Powell, chief of staff of the Justice Department's antitrust division; Harold Furchtgott-Roth, chief economist for the House Commerce Committee; and Gloria Tristani, a member of the New Mexico Corporation Commission.

    Powell and Furchtgott-Roth were initially nominated by the Senate Republicans and approved by President Clinton. Tristani and Kennard were nominated by the president.

    The influx of a chairman and three new commissioners represents the largest membership change at the FCC in its 63-year history.

    Recently, the FCC has been highly active in Net, wireless, and digital TV issues. For example, the agency allocated up to $2.25 billion a year to subsidize Net access for disadvantaged schools and libraries earlier this year. In addition, it rejected proposed access fees for Internet service providers, although it levied new charges for businesses and residences with second phone lines.

    Many who have a stake in information technology were behind FCC chairman Reed Hundt, who announced his resignation in May after leading implementations of new, high-tech policies.

    A lobbyist following the nominations predicted the full Senate would vote soon to approve the nominations. But a spokeswoman for the Commerce Committee said that Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) has vowed to block all Clinton nominations until he gets a promise from Democrats that they will not tie campaign finance reform measures to any unrelated bills.

    NEWS.COM reporter Courtney Macavinta contributed to this report.