Wireless industry trade group CTIA named Meredith Attwell Baker as its new president Wednesday, another remarkable appointment for the former member of the Federal Communications Commission who has quickly climbed the ranks of a private sector she once regulated.
Baker will begin her new job June 2, after nearly three years as a high-level lobbyist for Comcast, where she promoted issues favorable for the cable giant. Public interest groups had criticized her move from the FCC to Comcast so soon after she voted in favor of the cable company's merger with NBC Universal. The criticism heated up when Comcast appeared to punish a Seattle-based youth advocacy group for tweeting skepticism about Baker's hiring in 2011. Real Grrls said a local Comcast representative threatened to pull funding for their nonprofit after the tweet. (Comcast later said that it had made a mistake and that the funding was not in jeopardy.)
Critics said that Baker's move to the cable firm highlighted a revolving door between the FCC and the companies they regulate and raised potential conflicts of interests. Former FCC chairman Michael Powell now heads the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
At the CTIA, Baker will head the vast lobbying organization for wireless firms ahead of a historic auction of public airwaves next year. The group's biggest members -- AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint -- represent the fastest-growing segments of the telecom industry. Baker will replace Steve Largent, who reportedly had a salary of about $2.7 million last year.
Baker, a Republican, is the daughter-in-law of former secretary of state James A. Baker.
"I am thrilled to have this opportunity to use my experience in both the public and private sectors to help the vital and fast-growing wireless communications industry," Baker said in a press release. "CTIA should be in the center of discussions about how wireless is reshaping our economy, our society and our culture."