Congress' gridlock won't shut down FCC's broadband "sledgehammer"

22 January 2018 by Steve Blum
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One reason to be happy about a federal government shutdown might have been this week’s planned meeting of the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband deployment advisory committee (BDAC). The FCC’s published plan for federal shutdowns calls for “cancelling FCC sponsored events and notifying participants”. But no joy, the agency found enough money lying around to “remain open and pay staff at least through the close of business on Friday, January 26”.

(Even after the money runs out, staff who work at the high frequency direction finding center will stay on the job. They “operate the high frequency antenna system used to protect life and property”. “High frequency” in this case has the same meaning as the “high speed” label slapped on 1,200 bits per second modems back when we had to surf the Internet by candlelight. It’s shortwave radio – anything below 30 MHz but above the AM band. Note to HR: make sure our list of Morse code-qualified retirees is up to date).

BDAC is a group formed last year to offer the FCC advice on how to encourage broadband infrastructure and service upgrades. It was largely comprised of lobbyists and other hacks working for and on behalf of big telecoms companies. The preliminary recommendations released late last year were predictably hostile to muni broadband – strangle it with unachievable conditions – and to local ownership or control of any asset more than six feet high.

(Note to HR: amend dress code. Flats only for all employees 5’10" or taller. No heels. Cowboy boots excepted for employees whose duties include riding horses or wading through Comcast’s net neutrality policy.)

At least one commissioner – Michael O’Rielly – is eagerly anticipating the final recommendations. He wants to sweep away local and state discretion over wireless sites and assets – take “a sledgehammer” to city governments, in the words of his colleague, Mignon Clyburn.

The meeting begins tomorrow and is scheduled to run two days.