Former FCC Official to Head Cell-Phone Lobby

Meredith Attwell Baker will leave Comcast for the wireless group CTIA.

FCC Meets To Discuss Net Neutrality Rules By: Chip Somodevilla Getty Images News
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
April 23, 2014, 7:53 a.m.

Ve­r­i­zon, AT&T, and the oth­er cell-phone ser­vice pro­viders have a new top lob­by­ist.

Meredith At­twell Baker, a former mem­ber of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion, will be the new CEO of CTIA-The Wire­less As­so­ci­ation, the group an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

Baker, a Re­pub­lic­an, was a tar­get of fierce cri­ti­cism from con­sumer groups when she stepped down from the FCC in 2011 to be­come a lob­by­ist for Com­cast. Al­though top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials of­ten join the in­flu­ence in­dustry, Baker’s move was con­sidered par­tic­u­larly os­ten­ta­tious be­cause she joined Com­cast just four months after vot­ing to ap­prove the cable gi­ant’s pur­chase of NBC-Uni­ver­sal.

Com­cast is now ramp­ing up its lob­by­ing force to get per­mis­sion to buy Time Warner Cable. Los­ing Baker will be a blow, but the com­pany still has an im­press­ive roster of lob­by­ists, in­clud­ing former Sens. Blanche Lin­coln and Don Nickles and former Reps. Robert Walk­er and Ron Klink.

At CTIA, Baker will re­place Steve Lar­gent, a Re­pub­lic­an, former Ok­lahoma con­gress­man, and NFL Hall of Fame wide re­ceiv­er who an­nounced his plan to re­tire last Oc­to­ber.

The ex­plos­ive growth of the wire­less in­dustry over the past dec­ade has helped CTIA be­come one of the most in­flu­en­tial lob­bies in Wash­ing­ton. A top pri­or­ity for the group is to gain ac­cess to more air­waves for the in­dustry. Sur­ging de­mand for wire­less data could lead to con­ges­tion and slower speeds for smart­phones in the com­ing years.

In a state­ment, Baker said she will de­vel­op a five-year plan for fu­ture use of the air­waves, and will put more em­phas­is on tech­nic­al and en­gin­eer­ing ex­pert­ise at the group. 

“I plan to bring new ideas and new ini­ti­at­ives to the as­so­ci­ation that will take it from good to great. We will re­cruit and keep the best and bright­est ex­perts in spec­trum and wire­less com­mu­nic­a­tions,” she said.

Baker will have to bal­ance the com­pet­ing in­terests of her group’s mem­bers. AT&T and Ve­r­i­zon are fre­quently at odds with the in­dustry’s smal­ler play­ers, such as Sprint and T-Mo­bile.

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