The FCC's 'Broadband Advisory Council' Keeps Losing Members Due To Cronyism

from the adorable-little-stage-play dept

Last year, FCC boss Ajit Pai repeatedly hyped the creation of a new “Broadband Deployment Advisory Council” (BDAC) purportedly tasked with coming up with solutions to the nation’s broadband problem. Unfortunately, reports just as quickly began to circulate that this panel was little more than a who’s who of entrenched telecom operators with a vested interest in protecting the status quo. What’s more, the panel featured few representatives from the countless towns and cities that have been forced to build their own broadband networks in the wake of telecom sector dysfunction.

When first introduced, the FCC proclaimed that the agency was built to provide the FCC with well-rounded input on how to improve broadband deployment:

“The BDAC’s mission will be to make recommendations for the Commission on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access, or “broadband,” by reducing and/or removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment. This Committee is intended to provide an effective means for stakeholders with interests in this area to exchange ideas and develop recommendations for the Commission, which will in turn enhance the Commission’s ability to carry out its statutory responsibility to encourage broadband deployment to all Americans.”

This being Ajit Pai, you’ll probably be shocked to learn that none of this has actually happened. The panel has seen a slow but steady stream of departures by folks who say that not only is the panel ignoring the input of people Pai doesn’t agree with, but the panel itself hasn’t actually accomplished much of anything. Back in January, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo penned a letter saying he’d be resigning from the panel, claiming in his resignation letter (pdf) that the panel exists almost exclusively to help prop up the interests of incumbent ISPs (if you’ve watched the whole net neutrality thing, this surely comes as no surprise):

“It has become abundantly clear that despite the good intentions of several participants, the industry-heavy makeup of BDAC will simply relegate the body to being a vehicle for advancing the interests of the telecommunications industry over those of the public. The apparent goal is to create a set of rules that will provide industry with easy access to publicly-funded infrastructure at taxpayer subsidized rates, without any obligation to provide broadband access to underserved residents.”

Liccardo, one of the only municipal representatives on the panel (quite by intent), goes on to note how the agency has yet to put forth one meaningful solution to truly help bridge the digital divide, something you’ll recall Pai constantly insists is his top priority:

“The chairs of the working groups on which I participated have been very cordial, and collaborative in tone, and I am grateful for that. However, after nine months of deliberation, negotiation, and discussion, we?ve made no progress toward a single proposal that will actually further the goal of equitable broadband deployment. Although we?ve adopted principles that pay lip service to that objective, not a single one of the draft recommendations attempts to meaningfully identify any new or significant resources to promote digital inclusion.”

Liccardo’s resignation has been followed by the resignation of New York City CTO Miguel Gami?o Jr. late last month, who had very similar complaints in his own resignation letter:

“As the BDAC?s process is scheduled to come to a close, it is clear that despite good faith efforts by both the staff and members involved, the membership structure and meeting format of the BDAC has skewed the drafting of the proposed recommendations towards industry priorities without regard for a true public-private partnership. These circumstances give me no choice but to step away from this committee in order to direct the City?s energy and resources to alternative forums that provide more productive opportunities for achieving the kind of cooperative progress in advancing broadband deployment in the public interest.”

The reality is that deploying broadband to more remote or less affluent areas is slow-going with limited return on investment, requiring some creative solutions to improve connectivity (especially on the public/private partnership front). But there’s a contingent of cocksure, hardline free marketeer types who believe government can absolutely never accomplish anything good, making the idea that better broadband needs to be a combined effort between private industry and local governments a tough pill to swallow.

So instead of swallowing it, folks like Pai have decided to instead embrace protectionist state law that makes the problem worse, while putting on little stage plays like this one designed, predominately, to give the illusion that protecting the entrenched status quo (read: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast revenues) isn’t the top priority.

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Comments on “The FCC's 'Broadband Advisory Council' Keeps Losing Members Due To Cronyism”

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Iggy says:

Terms of the free market

As long as people think the free market is something that just happens on its own, we will not be getting many new free markets, at least not in fields which are natural monopolies.

The so called deregulation of air lines required a sincere discussion of the right framework of rules and continuing oversight. Same thing for the privatisation of railroads in the UK and open access networks throughout Europe.

In the US, our ISP duopolies may be replaced by city run networks because a free ISP market require sincere discussion of regulations which this country is not ready for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Terms of the free market

There you go. A discussion about need for regulation is often senseless.

The question is how you regulate and where you regulate. As seen, if politicians see a reason to regulate, the removal of country-wide regulation cause state-wide regulation.

In the end, removing net neutrality is ultimately making it harder for smaller ISPs to compete and easier for large ISPs to entrench decades of no recourse deals in local negotiations, with low quality hardware and no enforceable maintenance/upgrade of equipment deals!

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Terms of the free market

I will add something here..Probably allot..

1. the USA paid for Low income areas AROUND the nation to be included in the OLD phone systems..the Corps were NOT goping to install them. (WE PAID FOR THEM)
2. over time,t he OLD systems, were HARDLY ever updated, unless WE PAID FOR THEM..
3. 911 and MANY other features ARE SUBSIDIZED..
4. The ORIGINAL INSTALLERS OF THE SYSTEM, are long gone..the Service has been bought and paid for, and after about the 3rd buyout, HARDLY UPDATED.. the only reasons you see a NEW NAME on the door, is that this NEW CORP(or new name because they dont want to Pay for things) is ONLY THERE TO RECEIVE THE MONEY FROM AN OLD SYSTEM..
5. What are the Odds, that the only things changed in the last 40+ years, is when something BROKE.. ABOUT 30%.. When the Internet really got started, WE WE LOOKING at a system that could handle a 6-10% usage rate..Regular;ar use hardly went over 10%, unless there was a major emergency..then it was just a GIANT busy signal..They hadnt added to the increase..and that took 2-3 years to REALLY change..

AND STILL it is not TOTALLY UPDATED, Since 1998..20 years, and they STILL aint finished.. AND the gov. has given them money, AND the SUBSIDIES ARE STILL THERE..

Then we found a tax from the 1890’s had NEVEr been rescinded.. From Teddy Roosevelt. and the Rough riders to PAY FOR THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Terms of the free market

One point, the connection capacity of the phone exchange has no bearing on the connection capacity of ISDN lines, the phone and the Internet are separate systems at both ends of the copper wires.

The Internet capacity is determined by the Internet Routers, and the capacity of the backbone connections to those routers.

Also, phone capacity at an exchange is now often determined by how many lines they can connect to a VOIP system at the exchange.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

I’m gonna go ahead and recycle my comment from one of the earlier articles about BDAC, since it’s still relevant to its cronyism:


This Ars Article goes into more detail about some of the sleazy corrupt shit that’s in the proposed BDAC recommendation. Basically: Everything municipalities do for broadband deployment MUST benefit private broadband providers in some way, as I’ve summarized below.

It sets up five ranked municipal deployment options:

1: The muni must do what it can to help make a private company’s deployment easier.

2: The muni pays some or all of the private companies’ network deployment costs and picks one of those companies to give an exclusive franchise agreement over the network for a time to.

3: Open-acces muni-owned network that’s required to lease to private companies

4: The muni does the deplyment work but private company partner doing follow-up support.

5: Network fully built, owned, and operated by the muni

Options 4 and 5 are only allowed after the muni solicits and accepts proposals from private companies, analyzes them to the companies’ satisfaction, (or else the companies are allowed to sue) and finds the first three options lacking. Also, munis doing 4 or 5 must allow private networking companies access to the muni-built metwork afterward. (i.e. the muni does all the hard expensive work while the companies enjoy the profitable part.)

Ninja (profile) says:

“But there’s a contingent of ***cocksure, hardline free marketeer types*** who believe government can absolutely never accomplish anything good, making the idea that better broadband needs to be a combined effort between private industry and government a tough pill to swallow. “

Seems some of this contingent landed in TD. Considering how they tend to ignore facts that go counter to their beliefs, they exist everywhere, not only in the broadband issues and their loudness (if not numbers) is increasing, we can expect some years of stagnation and regress in many areas.

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