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President Obama nominates new FCC commissioners

The president has nominated a Democrat and a Republican who each have experience working at the FCC to fill slots on the commission.

President Obama nominated two new commissioners to the Federal Communications Commission late Monday.

Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Varadaraj Pai, who each have experience working at the FCC and on Capitol Hill, have been nominated to fill vacancies left by Michael Copps, a Democrat, and Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican who left earlier this year to take a job with Comcast.

Rosenworcel currently works as an adviser to Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Previously, she worked for Copps as an adviser at the FCC. If confirmed, she will replace him on the commission. Copps has served as an FCC commissioner since May 2001. His tenure will end in December.

Rosenworcel's approach to issues, such as Net neutrality and allocating more wireless spectrum, is believed to be similar to views held by her previous bosses, Rockefeller and Copps.

"Her experience here, combined with her current Congressional work, give her a perspective on telecom and media issues both wide and deep," Copps said in a statement. "Her dedication, intelligence, and practical good judgment make her an ideal choice for commissioner."

Pai, who recently became a partner at the law firm Jenner & Block, has worked in several areas of the FCC, including in the office of general counsel at the FCC for former Chairman Kevin Martin. He has also worked on Capitol Hill as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights, and property rights. Pai has been nominated to fill the vacancy by Attwell Baker.

Pai's stance on certain communication policies is a little less-known than that of Rosenworcel, but he is known for his thoughtful approach. Copps, who also worked with Pai while he served in the Office of the General Counsel at the FCC, praised his nomination as well. Copps said in a statement that Pai had provided "valuable counsel on many complex matters" while he worked at the commission.

"Ajit's experience, both at the agency and on Capitol Hill, prepares him well for the many urgent telecom and media challenges confronting the commission," Copps said in a statement.

Rosenworcel and Pai had been rumored to be top candidates for the FCC commissioner positions. The next step for the nominees is a Senate confirmation hearing, which could happen within weeks.

If confirmed, Rosenworcel and Pai will restore the commission to five members. The agency has been working with only four commissioners since Attwell Baker left in the spring. The new commissioners will likely tackle a slew of important issues next year, including further work on incentive spectrum auctions, reform of the Universal Service Fund, and further implementation of the National Broadband Plan. Commissioners will also have to finalize their decision of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. And they may face backlash from a court case challenging the new Net neutrality rules that were adopted at the end of last year.