Pai, Clyburn, O’Rielly Urge BDAC to Keep Varying Factors in Mind

April 21, 2017–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told the members of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee today during its first meeting that he hopes its members will “help identify solutions” for easing broadband providers’ access to utility poles “that preserve public safety and advance the interests of pole owners and (would-be) users.” FCC Commissioners Mignon L. Clyburn and Mike O’Rielly, meanwhile, emphasized other issues and factors they want the BDAC membership to keep in mind.

During remarks at the meeting, which was held at the FCC’s Washington headquarters, Chairman Pai, who invited applications for BDAC members earlier this year and announced the membership a few weeks ago (TR Daily, April 6), also highlighted the importance of “speeding up broadband deployment on Federal lands. Right now, it takes about twice as long to site infrastructure on Federal lands as it does on privately held land. Shortening that timeline could help prove the business case for deployment in areas where it might not otherwise exist. Here, BDAC recommendations could have a major impact on closing the digital divide, especially for rural and Tribal residents who live on or near Federal lands,” according to his prepared remarks.

According to her prepared remarks, Commissioner Clyburn said, “Whether you are discussing how to address the thorny issues of access to poles, ducts, or conduit, I ask that you think about the impact your decisions will have on consumers. And when you are debating franchising model codes, I ask you to think about the impact the contours of that code will have on consumers in the franchise area.” More specifically, she asked the BDAC members to “never overlook the effects of your policy recommendations on ensuring low-income communities are not relegated to a second-class broadband future” and to “make sure that the broadband services you recommend for deployment, are affordable.”

Finally, Commissioner Clyburn asked the BDAC members to “remember that one person’s regulatory barrier, is another’s vital consumer protection, and that one person’s intransigent municipality, is another’s carefully considered protector of local interests.  The infrastructure notices we adopted yesterday, framed many things that I would consider to be consumer protections as regulatory barriers. As you debate how to streamline processes of all sorts, remember that time is necessary for consumers to make informed decisions, about what to do when their provider says their legacy landline phone service is being turned off. As you determine how to draft a model municipal tower siting code, remember that all municipalities are not created equal. Cast a wide net for ideas and understanding, so that we do not end up with a one-size-fits-all solution that ends up being one-size-fits-only-a-few.”

Commissioner O’Rielly warned against “throwing money at the problem” as a solution, noting that the money comes from consumers in the form of higher fees and adding, “I will be extremely reluctant to consider any recommendation that proposes to increase cost on every day Americans trying to survive in today’s economy.”

He urged recognition of “the great progress that has already been made in broadband buildout,” both as a result of universal service support and private sector investment, according to his prepared remarks.  He called for a technologically neutral approach to solutions.  “Clearly, it is not economically feasible to drag fiber to every unserved location,” he said.

“In establishing this new panel, I appreciate the Chairman’s direction to return to the past practices of how advisory committees are run. This means the Commission assigns issues for the committee to examine but then steps back and awaits your views and recommendations. Our role is not to be overly involved and certainly not prescribe what you should find or recommend. The members of the committee should be given wide latitude to make the best recommendations based on the information available and their personal experiences,” Commissioner O’Rielly said.

The formal start date of the charter of the BDAC under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) was March 1, 2017.Today’s meeting included presentations by FCC staffers on relevant proceedings, such as the wireline and wireless infrastructure deployment items adopted by the Commission yesterday (TR Daily, April 20), explanations of FACA provisions governing the committee’s activities, the various issues and topics the FCC is referring to the committee, and self-introductions of committee members, who explained their particular interests in broadband deployment.

There was also a presentation on the five previously announced working groups that will draft recommendations for approval by the full committee:  model code for municipalities, model code for states, competitive access to broadband infrastructure, removing state and local regulatory barriers, and streamlining federal siting.

The next meeting, at which working groups will report on their progress and receive feedback from the full committee, is tentatively scheduled for July 20.  A year-end meeting at which the committee is expected to vote on final recommendations is planned for October or November.

Meanwhile, the FCC said in a public notice yesterday that “presentations to the BDAC, including to its subcommittees and working groups, and at any roundtable discussions sponsored by the BDAC, and presentations between BDAC members (including members of any subcommittees or working groups) and FCC staff or Commissioners, will be treated as exempt presentations for ex parte purposes. This treatment is appropriate since presentations to the Committee, like comments on a Notice of Inquiry, will not directly result in the promulgation of new rules.”  That is, parties are not required to file ex parte notices regarding such presentations.

“We recognize, however, that in the course of its work the BDAC may address issues that are subject to pending rulemaking proceedings.   The Commission will not rely in these proceedings on any information submitted to the BDAC, or to any of its subcommittees, working groups, or sponsored roundtables, or information conveyed by BDAC members (including members of any subcommittees or working groups) to FCC staff or Commissioners unless that information is first placed in the record of the relevant proceeding,” the FCC said in the General docket 17-83 public notice. —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily