The Federal Communications Commission recently filled a 30-person advisory board that would oversee the deployment of high-speed internet. That sounds innocuous enough, but there’s a catch: the committee is almost entirely stacked with people from big telecom.
The Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee was created by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai earlier this year. And out of the 30 people currently on the board, only two have a history in city or state government with experience implementing telecom regulations. The rest are telecom executives, lobbyists, consultants and free-market think tank scholars.
While the FCC maintains that the board represents a diversity of viewpoints and expertise, local government officials are worried that the Committee’s membership hides a hidden agenda. Specifically, creating a set of rules that would benefit the telecom industry, allowing the BDAC to create regulations and allow telecom companies to implement equipment with little to no oversight, The Daily Beastreported.
The BDAC was created in April by the FCC to make recommendations on facilitating high-speed interact access across the country. Among the issues that the BDAC will advise on the national rollout of 5G wireless technology. And while the guidelines they create will be voluntary for local governments, the FCC may compel cities to follow the rules through new regulations.
Earlier this year, the National League of Cities met with the FCC in an effort to urge the regulatory group to staff the Committee with more people with a background in local municipal government. Or, as they put it, “increase the number and diversity of local officials on the BDAC to a level comparable with the number of diversity of industry officials.”
Even some telecom executives admit that the lack of municipal official representation can present a problem. David Don, Comcast’s VP of regulatory policy, expressed concern at the BDAC’s July meeting that some groups may not feel included at the table. “And if they don’t feel included, not only are they outside throwing [darts] at this process, but then in the end it’s those groups that we want to adopt these model codes.”