Another net neutrality skeptic lands at the FCC

3 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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Telecoms policy solidifies.

A third, like minded crew member beamed down to the Trump transition’s landing team at the Federal Communications Commission this week. Roslyn Layton was named to the volunteer position and, together with previous appointees Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison, will help manage the transition from an Obama-appointed democratic majority to a Trump-appointed republican one.

Like Jamison and Eisenach, Layton has links to the American Enterprise Institute, a right-of-center consulting shop, and works as a consultant and in academia, albeit with a thin scholarly resume. Unlike them, though, she does not have any major telecoms companies as clientsat least none that are disclosed on her website – and doesn’t have a history as an industry lobbyist.

Layton has gone on record opposing many of the FCC’s recent initiatives, including the recently adopted telecoms privacy rules and the decision to regulate broadband as a common carrier service. At the time, she argued that that the new regulations were unnecessary because “net neutrality is the freedom for an Internet user to connection to any content, applications or service…and Internet service providers already agree to uphold this principle”.

On the other hand, she wrote that “companies such as Netflix hijack the language of net neutrality to lobby for regulatory favors” and giving common carrier status to broadband service…

…would effectively give control of the Internet to the federal government, allowing it to monitor networks and set prices. For starters, expect a price increase due to new federal, state and local fees on your Internet subscription.

There seems to be no room for Trump-style populism in Layton’s philosophy. “That a regulator would grandstand on public comment as justification for its rules impugns the very notion of an expert, independent regulator”, she wrote in blog post earlier this year, adding that “European telecom regulators want to exit the rigorous, evidence-based world of economics and enter the world of human rights adjudication, an area to which they are not necessarily chartered or qualified to enforce”.

When he takes office, Donald Trump will be able to appoint at least one new commissioner, and possibly two if he decides not to reappoint republican Ajit Pai. He’ll also pick which commissioner serves as chairman.