FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, newly in the minority on the Commission, said she’s willing to meet her colleagues halfway when it comes to policy but won’t be compromising on her principles anytime soon.
In remarks delivered at the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA) spring meeting this week, Clyburn acknowledged the “seismic” shift at the FCC that has seen her thrust from sitting in the 3-2 majority to being the lone Democrat holding out in a 2-1 minority. But while the approach may be different, Clyburn said new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is working toward the same goal as former Chairman Tom Wheeler: the deployment and maintenance of a “rapid, efficient, nationwide” network.
“It is no secret, that the FCC looks very different now than it did in December. The difference in my role and status are readily apparent,” Clyburn reflected. “I was in the minority as a commissioner here in South Carolina for many years, so that is not foreign to me. But, as I have said before and will repeat now: I always start at the 50-yard line when it comes to formulating policy with anyone who may see the world differently than I do. However, I will never entertain compromising my principles. Removing consumer protections and harming competition, are always going to be non-starters for me, but I will continue to sit at the table, even when we are discussing issues that have practical impacts, that may make me uncomfortable.”
During her speech, Clyburn called out two main issues, including the importance of not forgetting 4G in the run up to 5G and the need for backhaul reform.
Moving into the next generation of wireless services, Clyburn indicated the FCC’s broad strategy is to make low-, mid- and high-band spectrum available with flexible rules. But she noted it’s important to not lose sight of ongoing 4G rollouts as attention turns toward the next big thing.
“While I think it is important to focus on and plan for 5G, I believe it is equally important to ensure that we are working hard to provide 4G services in rural America,” she said.
Additionally, Clyburn said she is “deeply committed” to reforming a backhaul environment in which “in too many cases, the incumbent LEC is the only game in town.” This includes, she said, addressing industry concerns with how the Commission’s rate-of-return reforms have been carried out. In particular, Clyburn said she supports “hitting the ‘pause’ button” on rate floor increases until a new solution can be found that doesn’t disproportionally impact rural consumers and the universal service fund. Additionally, Clyburn expressed support for reforms to the FCC’s per-location cap on capital investment allowances.
“A punitive limit like this was not what I had envisioned when I voted for reforms to our rate-of-return mechanisms,” she said of the latter. “This cannot stand, while we are simultaneously asking you to push the envelope, and efficiently build out broadband to more locations.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations