By David Sims
The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music
is Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 135 in
Huh? Deborah Tate? Oh, glad you asked:
President Bush’s nominee to take a Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission,
Tennessee lawyer Deborah T. Tate, is currently serving a six-year term as
director of Tennessee’s Regulatory Authority, which sets rates and service
standards for private telephone, natural gas, electric and water utilities.
She was appointed to the position in February 2002 by the
governor and confirmed by the Tennessee General Assembly. She has also served
as a member of Governor Sundquist’s senior staff and was his designee to the
Juvenile Justice Commission and the TennCare Partners Advisory Committee from
1996 to 2000.
According to the Washington
Post, “telecom analysts and lawyers said they expected Tate to broadly
support (FCC Chairman Kevin) Martin’s positions and the general deregulatory
trend favored by the Republicans. As a former state regulator, they suggested
she might be quicker to defend the prerogatives of states in battles over
jurisdiction with Washington,” which of course is all to the good.
The FCC at full strength has five members. There are
currently two Democrats and two Republicans, adding Tate would make it 3-2 for
the Republicans. Evidently Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens gets to pick the fifth member,
and hasn’t done so yet. Democrat Michael J. Copps, who favors stricter decency
standards on the airwaves, is renominated for another term.
In an FCC filing last year, the Post says, “Tate wrote that she wanted ‘the states and the FCC to
reevaluate our overall regulatory program so that consumer welfare is the
centerpiece of regulation rather than restraining the market power of
increasingly hypothetical monopolists.’”
This would sound like Tate would be sympathetic to big phone
companies like Verizon and SBC, and their pleas that they face “growing
competition from cable, Internet phone and wireless providers despite their
history as regulated monopolies.”
But the fact is nobody seems to know much about her. In a
statement reported by the Los
Angeles Times, Martin said Tate “has a distinguished career in state
“Although Tate has long been rumored to be among the top candidates for the FCC
job,” the Times writes, “public
interest groups and industry analysts reached late Wednesday said they did not
know much about her.
Even Gene Kimmelman, co-director of the Washington office of Consumers Union,
which follows media issues at the FCC, told the Times “I’m from Tennessee but I don’t know her.”
She’s no stranger to Washington, as in her capacity as
director she also sits on the Federal-State Joint Conference on
Advanced Services as a representative from a state commissions. The
conference works for “greater federal-state cooperation, which is critical to
facilitating the widespread deployment of, and access to, advanced services.”
Comprised of commissioners from state public utilities
commissions and from the Federal Communications Commission, it was convened in
1999 and is chaired by the FCC Chairman or his designee.
The FSJC is one of those wallpaper entities which
proliferate in Washington, it exists but nobody’s quite sure exactly why, it
was started some time in the past as a good idea and has lumbered on as per the
inside the Beltway mentality of “I exist, I’ve got a budget, therefore I am.” According
to the FSJC’s web site its mission is to “share ideas, gather real-life stories
from across the country, and assist the FCC in its reports to Congress on the
deployment of advanced telecommunications services.”
It describes itself as “a forum for an ongoing dialogue
between the Commission, state regulators, and local and regional entities
regarding the deployment of advanced telecommunications capabilities,” an admirable raison d’etre.
In October 2002 the Florida Public Service Commission prepared a
report titled “Broadband Service In The United States: An Analysis of
Availability and Demand” on behalf of the FSJC, but according to news posted on
the conference’s web site things have gone pretty quiet since then, as
according to the news releases its main industry these days appears to be
appointing new members.
Tate’s name and views do not appear in the Florida report.
“Among other things,” FSJC officials say, it’s “responsible
for monitoring and collecting data regarding the practices of carriers as they
deploy advanced services throughout the nation.” It has held a series of field
hearings across the country and has conducted Broadband Summits to “examine how
best to accelerate the deployment of affordable advanced services to rural and
other under-served telecommunications users.”
Tate was appointed to the directorship of TRA in 2002, and
her term expires in June 2008. She has also served as Director of the State and
Local Policy Center at Vanderbilt University, as an Assistant to the Governor
and a member of Senior Staff. She holds J.D. degrees from the University of
In September 2002 Tate, described as “director of the
Tennessee Regulatory Authority and former mental health policy advisor for
Governor Don Sundquist,” joined the board of directors of Centerstone, a Middle
Tennessee provider of mental health services which provides “a comprehensive
range of mental health services for children and adults including research and
evaluation and treatment for mental illness and substance abuse,” according to
“Debi’s contributions to mental health in Tennessee and her
insight into state government make her a valuable addition to our board,” said
David Paine, chairman of the board of Centerstone at the time of the
appointment. The combination of mental health and state government experience
should stand her in good stead in D.C.
As Governor Sundquist’s mental health policy advisor for
statewide mental health issues, Tate was instrumental in the creation and
implementation of a nine-point plan to resolve issues relative to services
provided by TennCare. In this role, she also served as the governor’s appointee
to the Title 33 Mental Health Revision Commission, which recently was enacted
into law by the Tennessee General Assembly.
As a licensed attorney in the State of Tennessee, Tate is a
mediator approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Her areas of private practice
have included juvenile and family law as well as probate and estate law, and
her name is listed in a directory
of Nashville divorce lawyers.
Indeed, Tate seems to be one of those people versatile
enough to handle just about any government position you throw at her, a jack of
all governmental trades. From 1979 to 1985, she was on the senior staff and as
assistant legal counsel to Governor Lamar Alexander, overseeing initiatives including
the “Jobs for High School Graduates Program” and the “Tennesseans for Better
Schools,” a citizens’ lobby which was instrumental in the passage of The Better
Because when it comes down to it, strip away the issue or
subject or location, government work is government work and it takes a certain
kind of individual to thrive in that atmosphere. Tate appears to be that kind
Tate has served on the adjunct faculty at Vanderbilt
University’s School of Nursing and Belmont University’s Jack C. Massey Graduate
School of Business. She also is the co-founder and former president of Renewal
House, a recovery residence for women addicted to crack cocaine and their
children. She has also served as an elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Her nomination faces Senate confirmation, and no date has
been set. She is expected to be confirmed, as her opinions about Roe v. Wade don’t loom in her
confirmation quite as large as those of Sam Alito’s.
If read off-site hit http://blog.tmcnet.com/telecom-crm/ for the fully-linked version. First CoffeeSM accepts no sponsored content.