There are two warring factions at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
One side represents the business class, or the dominant internet service providers (ISPs) that want less regulation, freer markets and the ability to determine how to run and where to build their networks. Its apotheosis is found in the current FCC chairman, Ajit Pai.
The competing side, represented by Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the five FCC commissioners, is fighting for the interests of consumers. Its cornerstone positions are the restoration of net neutrality and the expansion of broadband access for all those who want it.
To some extent, the opposing interests fall neatly along party lines. Republicans want to defang the FCC while Democrats want to leverage it to expand and improve broadband in the county.
“It’s only in Washington, where there are high-paid lobbyists on behalf of broadband, that this is a controversial point,” Gigi Sohn, a former FCC chair and current NGO operator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Markets Institute, said in a phone call. However, in the current U.S. election cycle, that isn’t the obvious case.
President Donald Trump ran on a position to expand rural internet connectivity, part of his pledge to fight on behalf of Ronald Reagan’s silent majority. He hasn’t delivered, but it’s a call to action also picked up by presidential contenders and U.S. senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who between them have proposed $235 billion to build broadband networks.
Partisan lines are seemingly blurry inside the FCC, as well. The agency passed a $20.4 billion subsidy (about $10 billion less than candidate Warren offered) to construct broadband networks in unserved parts of the U.S. over the next decade. From the start, registered Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel opposed the bill.
The funds would be directed using outdated maps. “It’s time to think bigger and bolder. It’s time to do so informed by good data,” Rosenworcel…