FCC appoints a pack of dingos to guard the broadband baby

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The Federal Communications Commission named a fifteen member “working group” on Friday, and charged it with the “harmonisation” of local and state broadband policies developed by its Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).

Only five of the fifteen members come from local or state agencies.

Nearly all of the rest are telecoms industry lobbyists, including capos from AT&T and Comcast. The working group’s chair, Elizabeth Bowles, is “primarily responsible for directing the legislative strategy for WISPA, the trade association for the fixed wireless broadband industry”, according to her LinkedIn profile. Translation: lobbyist.

I say nearly all, because former Google Fiber boss Milo Medin has industry cred, even if he’s now out of the firing line and “in some undisclosed role at Google Fiber’s parent company Alphabet”. Industry guy yes, lobbyist no.

Another member, Brent Skorup, is a fledgling academic in the Beltway swamp. I’ll simply refer you to former Harvard president Derek Bok’s quote here, and leave it at that.

The harmonisation group – also called a “reconciliation” committee – is supposed to iron out discrepancies in draft model policies for state and local governments. Both documents have useful suggestions for streamlining permit processes and intelligently managing access to the public right of way. But they also take different views of municipal broadband – the industry-dominated state policy group wants to kill it, while the local policy team simply leaves it alone. The proposed state-level guidelines also go a long way toward preempting any local control over broadband related land use or encroachment decisions.

BDAC has been rightfully slammed for being dominated by telecoms lobbyists, who big footed compromise language negotiated by local representatives and substituted their own wish lists. That’s typical Beltway banditry, and it’s kicking into high gear as the committee’s work nears the end. Don’t expect an even handed or rational result from the harmonisation group: as one lobbyist chuckled during the last BDAC meeting, “reconciliation can be whatever we want it to be”.