Many reports reckon the fifth FCC Commissioner will be Lina Khan, who specializes in antitrust law and has a special focus on big tech.
The story was broken by Politico and corroborated by others, including Reuters. Nothing has been formally announced yet but apparently the final background checks required for the appointment are already underway. The FCC is the US communications regulator, which has been one short of its usually complement of five Commissioners since Chairman Ajit Pai stepped down following the change of President.
Khan seems single minded to the point of obsession about monopoly law, according to her public profiles. Her Twitter profile has a pinned tweet pointing to an academic piece she wrote four years ago titled Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox. “The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon’s power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties,” concludes the summary.
Currently a Professor at Columbia Law School, her profile there states: “Lina Khan teaches and writes about antitrust law, infrastructure industries law, the antimonopoly tradition, and law and political economy. Several of her writings have focused on the ways that dominant digital platforms freshly reveal the shortcomings of the current approach to antitrust.
“Prior to joining Columbia Law, Khan served as counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, where she helped lead the Committee’s investigation into digital markets and the publication of its landmark report. She has also served as legal adviser to Commissioner Rohit Chopra at the Federal Trade Commission…”
If Kahn is indeed to be the fifth FCC Commissioner it’s almost impossible to interpret the move as anything other than a clear statement of intent by the Biden administration. The US tech companies that dominate the digital economy have become de facto monopolies and that needs addressing. It would be great if the FCC had a proper look at Section 230 reform while its at it, but that seems unlikely.