This year’s election outcome sent shockwaves throughout the country and left many anxious about the changes that will be made during President-Elect Trump’s term in office. The telecom industry, namely, is one of many that is likely to feel the impact of this presidency. President-elect Trump didn’t release a full technology policy during his campaign, leaving many to infer and wonder about the changes that will be made. Already, we’re seeing some notions of the direction the Trump administration will take based on appointed aides.
Trump has appointed two aides, Jeffery Eisenach and Mark Jamison, to his transition team who have both long criticized net neutrality and various other policies introduced by the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler. Eisenach, the first appointed, has conducted research and issued reports about the destructive nature of some of the FCC’s rules, including net neutrality. Jamison, a former Sprint lobbyist, authored an opinion piece criticizing the leadership of the FCC during the Obama administration.
Considering these appointments, all signs point to the concept of net neutrality as we currently know it becoming dismantled. But that’s not all that’s at stake.
Known formally as the Open Internet Order, net neutrality was approved in 2015 to allow the Internet to function as a free and open service and be regulated as a public utility. For consumers, this is beneficial, as it is ultimately aimed at prohibiting discrimination from Internet providers by preventing them from subsidizing the success of various apps, services, and websites that rely on the Internet and its underlying network. However, many operators are opposed to net neutrality as it impacts their ability to drive revenue and profit.
As we embark on a Republican administration, Trump and his advisors will likely move to repeal net neutrality, which isn’t terribly surprising. Trump has mentioned his desire for deregulation and free enterprise, so a rule like net neutrality, which puts such strict regulations on operators, is in direct opposition of that ideology. There’s a chance that net neutrality may not be completely repealed, but the specifics of net neutrality will likely be mitigated or minimized.
Net neutrality has been appealed to the Supreme Court, so its future is still uncertain. However, Trump is anticipated to appoint at least one judge, maybe as many as three, who would all likely be conservative. This could very easily open the door for the Supreme Court to overrule the 2015 decision regarding net neutrality.
Connectivity and the Digital Divide
Net neutrality isn’t the only ruling that could change. Expanded wireless broadband networks and new accessibility requirements are also topics that may be off the table under the Trump administration. In a statement to reporters, Chairman Wheeler noted his dissatisfaction on these specific issues saying:
“It is truly disappointing that 1.4 million Americans living in rural areas without LTE service will continue to be so deprived. They deserve better from this commission. And it is tragic that 1.3 million Americans who are blind and millions more who are visually impaired will not be able to enjoy expanded video description. They deserve better from this commission.”
The first issue mentioned by Wheeler is related to efforts to push high-speed Internet into rural areas and decrease the cost of accessibility to low-income households. To meet this end, it would require significant help from the government, including strict regulations and tax breaks to encourage Internet Service Providers to build out infrastructure in those areas. And while cutting costs still might be an issue under the Trump administration, accessibility could still be attainable.
Other issues on the chopping block include Chairman Wheeler’s proposed set-top box reform, as well as AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner Inc., an issue Trump has been vocal in opposing. These issues, again, are in line with the deregulatory stance Trump has taken towards many government sectors aside from just telecom including military, healthcare, and more.
My Counsel to President-elect Trump
In summation, I want to provide my sincere counsel to the incoming administration with the following:
- First, view telecom, broadband, and the Internet as national assets that should be furthered and allowed to thrive so as to enhance the country’s global competitiveness.
- Second, create an environment leveraging appropriate regulation and de-regulation, as required, to ensure the Internet is able to continue to innovative and evolve. This will be crucial as the Internet increasingly enables the development of connected technologies.
- Third, ensure consumer interests are kept top of mind when building the new telecom regulatory environment.
- Fourth, do not let special interests and lobbyist take control of the country’s telecom and Internet agenda.
- Finally, select FCC nominees who have real world domain operating experience, rather than lawyers and/or lobbyists who have little understanding of the technologies in practice and their subsequent consumer requirements.
I am a strong believer in the greatness of our country, as well as the people tasked to lead it – past and present. I also believe in keeping an open mind and ensuring that America continues to be the leader in technological innovation. I am hopeful that the incoming administration will make the right calls for the country and its people.
Editor’s note: Appointed by the Obama administration, Anurag previously served as a Director of the U.S. National Broadband Task Force (part of the Federal Communications Commission).
Filed Under: Industry regulations