FCC: Four Years of Realized Opportunities
It is normal procedure for the Federal Communications Commission to appear before House and Senate Committees, but the blatant politicization is unacceptable. With the title of the hearing being “Trump FCC: Four Years of Lost Opportunities,” we all know this is a set up for political grandstanding.
The title is bogus. Completely false.
Digital Liberty joined a coalition letter sent to the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman, Congressman Mike Doyle, and Ranking Member, Bob Latta, describing the long list of accomplishments thus far from this FCC’s commissioners and staff.
These are hardly lost years.
Read the letter below.
September 17, 2020
Dear Chairman Doyle and Ranking Member Latta:
As the American economy continually demands more and faster internet connectivity, the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai took that demand seriously even before the global pandemic struck. This is why the title of this hearing “Trump FCC; Four Years of Lost Opportunities” is a serious disappointment. We understand this is an election year, but there is no reason to politicize telecommunications and technology issues in an attempt to deny the Federal Communications Commission staff and all five commissioners rightful acknowledgement of their significant accomplishments.
Chairman Pai instituted unprecedented transparency by releasing orders three weeks ahead of open meetings. Prior to this FCC, the regular practice was for commissioners to vote on items, but the public had to wait until publication in the Federal Register before seeing the final text – text, which previously was often leaked to key lobbyists and friends of commissioners who could then lobby for changes while the rest of the public was left out of the loop. The launch of the transparency dashboard provides the public a better understanding of the interworking of the FCC and its process, limiting the power of insiders and democratizing the system. Other process reforms included the creation of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment and creation of Office of Analytics and Economics.
At a time when America is rethinking the role of law enforcement, this FCC was already making tangible steps for change. They instituted 988 as the national suicide hotline, which will be staffed by mental health professionals. Of utmost importance, this FCC legally limited the rates that federal prisons can charge inmates for calling services, dropping the per minute rate from $0.21 to $0.14 for debit, prepaid, and collect calls, capped for international call rates, and disallowed most ancillary charges, while imploring state authorities to do the same for intrastate rates in their prisons and jails.
During the pandemic, internet access is more important than ever. The FCC worked with providers to Keep Americans Connected, a hugely successful public-private partnership that enabled struggling Americans to remain online, even if they are unable to pay their bills. They opened up emergency use of spectrum to carriers and tribal nations on an unprecedented timeline and moved at an equal pace to make telehealth more widely available and transition to the connected care future.
Because of policies instituted prior to the pandemic by the FCC, American networks proved resilient, despite unexpected increases in internet traffic. While the Title II version of “net neutrality” has been a pet project of activists on the Left, time and data demonstrated that these policies would have harmed U.S. networks. In 2018, after the repeal of the very short-lived Title II regulations, investment in broadband networks shot up to $80 billion. New research released by US Telecom shows that the “most popular tier of broadband service costs 20.2 percent less and is 15.7 percent faster in 2020 when compared to 2015.” The U.S. jumped from 12th place globally to 7th in terms of internet speed after the implementation of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Further evidence of the success of this FCC’s approach to broadband is clear when examining the performance of US networks in contrast to the slower speeds and congestion Europe’s heavily regulated networks are currently experiencing during the pandemic.
Today, 94 percent of Americans have access to high speed internet. The goal of this FCC is 100 percent, but that is not a license for waste or political favoritism. Recent reforms targeting waste fraud and abuse have flushed out companies with no intent of providing service, and streamlining the permitting process allows both wireline and wireless to deploy more efficiently. Updating the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund with a reverse auction will increase the usefulness and availability of broadband subsidies, resulting in more Americans connected without budget increases.
The FCC has also considered novel approaches to provision broadband service that may be better suited than traditional means for connecting the unconnected in rural regions. Some of these methods include opening up TV whitespaces and licensing new satellite networks.
Finally, and most impressive of all, is the progress made on the 5G FAST plan. In the last four years available spectrum has entered the pipeline at an extraordinary rate, including the largest swath of unlicensed spectrum, 1200 MHz, released in 20 years. There is a bipartisan consensus that American leadership in the 5G arena both in standards setting and deployment, will significantly grow our economy. The mix of mid and high-band spectrum will be crucial for American innovation in the 5G space. The FCC’s 5G FAST Plan is a forward-thinking roadmap for the US to fully realize the promise of the 5G future.
While there are many more accomplishments we could list, we will stop here and urge you to thank all five FCC Commissioners, Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner Brendan Carr, and Commissioner Geoffery Starks, and the entire FCC staff for their valuable work that should not be dismissed as “lost opportunities.”
Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform
Doug Holtz-Eakin, PresidentAmerican, Action Forum*
Jennifer Huddleston, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy, American Action Forum*
Steve Pociask, President / CEO, American Consumer Institute
Krisztina Pusok, Director of Policy and Research, American Consumer Institute
Brent Wm. Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity
Andrew F. Quinlan, President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity
Thomas Schatz, President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Ashley Baker, Director of Public Policy, The Committee for Justice
Jessica Melugin, Associate Director, Center for Technology & Innovation, Competitive Enterprise Institute
James Edwards, Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights
Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
Katie McAuliffe, Executive Director, Digital Liberty
Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks
George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom
Mario H. Lopez, President, Hispanic Leadership Fund
Carrie Lukas, President, Independent Women’s Forum
Heather R. Higgins, CEO, Independent Women’s Voice
Tom Giovanetti, President, Institute for Policy Innovation
Seton Motley, President, Less Government
Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President, National Taxpayers Union
Lorenzo Montanari, Executive Director, Property Rights Alliance
James L. Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President, 60 Plus Association
Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
David Williams, PresidentTaxpayer, Protection Alliance
James Dunstan,General Counsel,TechFreedom
*Individual signatory. Organization listed for identification purposes only.