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Senate Aide, Lawyer Tabbed for FCC Posts : Communications: The key regulatory agency will oversee explosion of new technology in the industry.


WASHINGTON — The Clinton Administration, scored for not quickly choosing a new Federal Communications Commission chairman at a time when the FCC faces a revolution in information technology, plans to name Washington communications lawyer Reed Hunt to head the agency.

Sources close to the White House also said Thursday that the Administration is expected to nominate Regina M. Keeney, counsel to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, to fill the other vacancy on the five-member commission.

The appointments--expected within the next two weeks--are being closely watched because few regulatory bodies are more important now than the FCC, which is in the midst of redefining how the burgeoning, $300-billion telecommunications industry will expand to serve business and consumers with groundbreaking new technologies such as high-definition television, digital radio and wireless telecommunications.

The additions of Hunt, 45, and Keeney, 37, would bolster support for more federal oversight of the cable TV industry after a period in which the FCC's three incumbent commissioners have been slow to implement the cable re-regulation law passed last fall by Congress.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 26, 1993 Home Edition Part A Page 2 Column 1 National Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Name misspelled--The name of the Washington lawyer expected to be nominated to head the Federal Communications Commission was misspelled in Friday's editions. His name is Reed Hundt.

Although the cable industry is expected to challenge the nominations, Hunt and Keeney are said to have political support in the Senate, which must approve them.

The White House late Thursday did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Hunt and Keeney also could not be reached.

Keeney and Hunt helped shepherd the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 through Congress. But the FCC, citing budget constraints, says it won't be able to implement key rate regulation provisions of the legislation until October.

Although their positions on other communications issues are less well known, Hunt and Keeney would likely bring a more decisive atmosphere to the FCC.

"They are going to be nominated as a package and they are going to get down to business very quickly," one industry source said.

FCC interim Chairman James H. Quello, criticized for being too accommodating to his two fellow commissioners, has backpedaled a number of times in recent weeks. This week, for instance, Quello dropped his support for granting TV shopping networks the same rights to be carried on cable systems as more traditional broadcast stations. He had come under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill and public interest groups.

New leadership at the FCC would pave the way for the agency to focus more on regulating an advanced new era of communications in which TV offers hundreds of channels, and telephones are as versatile as computers.

Keeney, a Harvard Law School graduate and an adviser to Republican members of the Commerce Committee on communications issues, in the past has described herself as non-ideological.

But Hunt, a classmate of President Clinton at Yale Law School who served on the presidential transition team, is said to harbor many of the activist regulatory views held by Vice President Al Gore, to whom Reed has been close since they were classmates at St. Alban's, a Washington prep school.

Despite his close ties to the White House, Hunt has been on and off the short list of candidates the Clinton Administration has been considering for FCC chairman. Only weeks ago, Antoinette D. Cook, senior counsel to the Senate communications subcommittee, was the front-runner to succeed Alfred C. Sikes, the former FCC chairman, who left the agency in January.

But last month Cook, whose stepfather is Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Clinton's transition chairman, removed herself from consideration, citing personal concerns, including her new baby.

But sources said the White House was being especially sensitive in winning support from Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. His committee aide, Consuela Washington, was passed over for the chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission last month in favor of Arthur Levitt.

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