FCC Accused Of Colluding With Big Carriers On 5G Policy

from the ill-communication dept

So we recently noted how the FCC pushed through some policy changes it proclaimed would dramatically speed up the deployment of fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology. According to the new guidance, cities will be limited in terms of how much money they can charge carriers to place cell technology like small cells on government property in public rights of way (traffic lights, utility poles). The policy changes also impose strict new timelines and operational restrictions making it harder for localities to stand up to giant nationwide cellular carriers.

But cities like Philadelphia, numerous small counties, and consumer groups disagreed, stating that the FCC's policy changes were little more than a hand out to large carriers, with the price caps barely covering local government costs to study, support and maintain the numerous small cell placements needed to fuel 5G. In some instances, the FCC's new order invalidated existing contracts local governments had already taken months or years to negotiate with wireless carriers.

Consumer groups say the FCC's order also ties local governments' hands in instances where they might need to actually hold AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile accountable for doing something wrong.

While the FCC's decision was already being criticized as an over-reach, that controversy just got much louder. This week, the heads of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (Frank Pallone and Mike Doyle) fired off a letter to the FCC effectively accusing the agency of colluding with carriers to help ensure the industry's favored policies had a better shot surviving a court challenge. The letter strongly implies that the Representatives already have whistleblower evidence of said collusion:

"It has come to our attention that certain individuals at the FCC may have urged companies to challenge the order the commission adopted in order to game the judicial lottery procedure and intimated the agency would look unfavorably towards entities that were not helpful. If true, it would be inappropriate for the FCC to leverage its power as a regulator to influence regulated companies to further its agenda in seeking a more friendly court. To date, four FCC licensees have petitioned the federal judiciary for review of the order in separate filings and separate circuits."

Municipalities have been grumbling about something fishy at the FCC on this subject for a while. They've pointed out that when the FCC passed what's effectively wish-list policy aiding incumbent wireless carriers, the carriers mysteriously and collectively sued to challenge the order. Why? It appears they, at the FCC's guidance, challenged the order itself as part of a gambit to keep the challenge from being heard by The Ninth Circuit, which has historically liked giving the FCC a wrist slap for over-reach, especially when it tries to pre-empt more local government authority.

Short version: the lawmakers are alleging the FCC actively worked hand in hand with carrier lawyers to hamstring court challenges to the FCC's latest 5G order, an allegation that's not particularly outlandish if you've actually watched the Ajit Pai FCC do business. And again, the letter's phrased in such a way to suggest the lawmakers already have this information and are just waiting for the FCC to try and mislead them about it or withhold evidence the staffers know the FCC has. It's just one of a growing roster of challenges facing Ajit Pai's FCC under new House leadership.

We've talked at length about how the solution for the terrible state of US broadband needs to be a creative, comprehensive solution that involves both the industry and local governments -- since private industry alone is turned off by the low return on investment into rural markets and less affluent city centers.

But wary this could result in actual competition, the telecom industry's incumbent players (and the politicians and revolving door regulators who adore them) go out of their way to instead demonize local towns and cities, pass protectionist laws preventing the exploration of creative solutions, and gut state and federal oversight of big telecom wherever possible in the false belief this will magically fix a very, very broken market. When critics point out that mindless fealty won't fix American broadband, the Trump FCC simply dismisses said criticism as unfair partisanship.

Ajit Pai is already facing a pretty ugly 2019 thanks to the challenge of his historically unpopular repeal of net neutrality rules, and if this allegation has wait, things just got even more complicated for the "internet freedom" lovin' agency boss.

Filed Under: ajit pai, carriers, collusion, congress, fcc, frank pallone, mike doyle, regulatory capture
Companies: at&t, sprint, t-mobile, verizon


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  • identicon
    Word Check, 4 Feb 2019 @ 6:37am

    Ajit Pai is already facing a pretty ugly 2019 thanks to the challenge of his historically unpopular repeal of net neutrality rules, and if this allegation has wait, things just got even more complicated for the "internet freedom" lovin' agency boss.

    I think you meant "weight" here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:02am

    " . . . if this allegation has, wait . . . HAMMER TIME!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:10am

    Ajit has Pai'd himself again

    ... and the swamp is totally drained, promise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:38am

      Re: Ajit has Pai'd himself again

      He's giving the entire industry a Pai in the face. Let's hope we emerge from this mess with a bit more sanity once the dust clears.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul Clark, 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:14am

    Easy Solution

    Investigate and convict the FCC boss and the telcos of collusion. Fine them $5.7 billion dollars. I am sure the president could find some use for the money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ysth (profile), 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:16am

    Article miscategorized

    Doesn't fcc belong under companies, not tags?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:38am

    Serious question

    Does anyone know, at what point does what Pai is up to become illegal?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:40am

      Re: Serious question

      That depends on whether you're talking about law on the books, or law that the system has the political will to enforce in the current climate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2019 @ 8:49am

        Re: Re: Serious question

        He'll have Qualified Immunity, because nobody has been in telco's pocket in exactly this way before. /s ... maybe. I'm honestly not sure :/

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:42am

    adding insult to injury

    So, after the telcos legislatively fight against any sort of competition, they now expect to effectively have local governments subsidize their expenditures. Localities can't even recover implementation costs regarding poles that AT&T has fought hard to keep competitors from using.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 4 Feb 2019 @ 7:45am

    "certain individuals at the FCC may have urged companies to challenge the order the commission adopted in order to game the judicial lottery procedure"

    This allegation is ludicrous. The Pai run FCC has not had a single thought of their own. The companies came up with the plan to make this court challenge to follow up the having the FCC to create the order.

    Pai was probably more surprised at anyone about the companies challenging the order they told him to put in place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2019 @ 9:23am

    Having followed what is going on in the town I live concerning the implementation of a 5g network, and in particular municipal overreach at the prospect of adding copious $$$ to the town’s coffers, I welcome placing restrictions on what municipalities can do that otherwise drive up deployment costs with no meaningful benefit to the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 4 Feb 2019 @ 10:52am

    I wonder about the corps

    And the forethought. they DONT have or use.. We know that they control allot of the information services in the USA..TV/CABLE/PHONE/CELL..

    "You would think they would LOVE to consolidate all of this into 1 line to every house.. If there is tech difference in the setup, I dont know what it is.. Inste of running a 200 strand copper wire to an area, you now have 1 fiber, and divide it at the Central location.. Fully automate 90% of it over the old switches..used for phones. AND They can set up each box, outside the house, into a small cell and give access all over the place and not in 1 LARGE tower.. THEN, they can discuss a few things with other agencies(if they were smart about setup) And start sending power along the line and charge the Power corp for the ability.. The hard part would be changing the POLE wires into underground..and more secure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2019 @ 12:04pm

    I wonder about the corps

    Dear ECA,

    I think you must be an engineer for a sewer company judging from the brilliant description above.

    Please confirm this as an attempt at sarcasm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 4 Feb 2019 @ 9:08pm

      Re: I wonder about the corps

      Simplist way to format it and not acre anyone.. Its over 2000 strand apir, as thick as your upper leg, and probably bigger, compared a fiber cable that can run 500 of those lines in 1 strand..and I think its higher then that.. Goto NY and look at the lines drawn down the sewers, its probably 4 main lines(at least) of over 2000-5000 lines per bundle, at least 3-4 bundles..Just in the Business area. And insted of 1000 lines in 1 building, you can place a fiber box in the building and split 2 fiber lines to all 1000..
      Then set a Antenna line connection UP the elevator shaft and stairwell , and do all the cell signals you want.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 5 Feb 2019 @ 5:43am

    Spellcheck fail

    ...if this allegation has wait...

    *weight

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2019 @ 5:05am

    Hrm...

    A Karl Bode article about the FCC...
    Ctrl+F: "Breathl"
    Huh. Not there.

    Excellent! Well done, Karl. It's noticed and appreciated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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