Article: FCC Hires Head For Tribal Affairs Policy Office 11/14/2017

FCC Hires Head For Tribal Affairs Policy Office

Share us on:   By Christopher Crosby

Law360, New York (November 13, 2017, 7:35 PM EST) — The Federal Communications Commission has hired an experienced attorney and policy analyst with a background in energy and Indian water-rights issues to direct the office overseeing the deployment of telecommunications throughout Indian Country, the agency announced Monday.

Matthew Duchesne has been appointed the head of the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, the agency said. Duchesne joins the FCC from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, where he worked as a program manager and led the agency’s efforts to secure tribal water rights settlements in the West.

Before that, Duchesne served as a senior policy official with the U.S. Department of Energy, where he negotiated between tribal and state governments on behalf of the federal government. ONAP, which helps improve internet and broadcast infrastructure throughout Indian Country, represents the FCC when consulting with sovereign tribal nations and works to put into place policies assisting their communities, the FCC said. It was created in 2010.

“[Duchesne] brings leadership, vision and a wide range of policy making and practical experience that will be key to enhancing the commission’s engagement with Native Nations,” Patrick Webre, acting head of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, said in a statement.

Tribal areas fall well behind the rest of the U.S. in terms of access to broadband internet, according to a 2016 FCC report. While 10 percent of Americans lacked access to broadband in 2014, that number for 41 percent for residents in tribal areas. Tribal officials meanwhile have told the regulator to seek permission before building broadband towers on sovereign land, as the FCC pushes for increased cellphone and internet service in tribal areas, raising concerns its it could preempt local authority in its effort to speed up deployment.

Duchesne, a former Brookings Institution legislative fellow, spent the bulk of his career as an environmental protection specialist with the Department of Energy, according to his biography on LinkedIn. His duties there included advising a program aimed at restoring natural resources damaged by hazardous materials and negotiating agreements between state and tribal governments on clean up efforts.

Before that, Duchesne worked in the office of the late U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He is a former Jones Day associate and clerked for Third Circuit judge Richard L. Nygaard. More recently, he has served as a public arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Duchesne has published policy articles on environmental issues, including a 2008 piece in the University of New Mexico Natural Resources Journal examining the effect of a law creating superfund sites on tribal governments.

Duchesne, who will step into a role temporarily held by Lyle Ishida, earned his law degree and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a bachelor’s degree in political science from Miami University.

–Editing by Brian Baresch.