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Public Policy

Why a Complete Federal Communications Commission Is Important
By   David Bartlett, Vice President of Federal Government Affairs
July 19, 2017

Today, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a confirmation hearing to consider the re-nominations of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and former Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, along with the nomination of current FCC General Counsel Brendan Carr. 

All three are seasoned policymakers and extremely well-qualified to join the other two long-serving and highly-capable Commissioners, Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Reilly, in addressing the multitude of complex new and legacy issues before the agency.

The FCC is often overlooked by many Americans. However, its decisions impact virtually every consumer, business and anchor institution in the country because we all rely on access to phones, the internet, cable, wireless devices and other communications and entertainment options. 

In large urban centers and rural areas, the FCC’s impact on daily activities may go unnoticed by most, but there is no government agency more important to ensuring that the modern digital world—including access to improved educational opportunities, better health care, more jobs, modern agriculture techniques, and other benefits—remains available to all people. 

It is not an overstatement to say that the FCC’s policy decisions make a fundamental difference in the lives of our citizens. There is also a direct correlation to CenturyLink’s goal of connecting our customers to the power of the digital world.

Like other federal agencies, the FCC is not exempt from politics and timing issues when it comes to completing its mission. A 2016 presidential election that changed the White House administration and a term expiration left the FCC with only three of its full complement of five commissioners, which is the minimum needed for a quorum. The absence of any one commissioner can effectively prevent the FCC from acting.

Today’s confirmation hearing will address the gap and allow the commission to move forward with critical issues such as funding infrastructure expansion further into rural areas, increasing access to higher speeds in classrooms, 5-G deployment and open internet issues.  

We, and others in the industry, are encouraged that each of the nominees have a strong interest in pushing forward agendas that are instrumental to moving our economy forward and keeping America’s broadband infrastructure safe and reliable.

One issue that Chairman Pai and former Commissioner Rosenworcel have championed is overcoming the very real problems caused by lack of internet access. Chairman Pai has tackled the rural broadband issue through his Digital Empowerment Agenda, while former Commissioner Rosenworcel led the charge to close the Homework Gap so that no child is left behind because of a lack of internet access. Carr has been a leader on wireless policy, including agency efforts to streamline the infrastructure deployment process to ensure all Americans have access to next-generation broadband networks.

Chairman Pai has assembled a top-notch team of bureau and office chiefs and staff who are experts in their respective fields. CenturyLink also appreciates the chairman’s focus on increased transparency in the rulemaking process and his commitment to data-based decision making, including the effort to set up a new Office of Economics and Data. These are positive changes that will ensure an effective decision-making process on the many complex issues before the agency. 

So as the Senate Commerce Committee considers the nominations of Pai, Rosenworcel and Carr, we at CenturyLink take comfort in knowing that they, along with current Commissioners Clyburn and O’Rielly, will provide solid direction and focus in setting priorities and quickly executing on moving the communications future of our country forward.

The current three-member commission has shown an ability to act at a remarkably fast pace, but there are issues that are best decided by a complete commission. The hard issues that need decisions require thoughtfulness and consideration, as well as the ideas and energy that Rosenworcel and Carr will certainly bring to the table. CenturyLink congratulates all three nominees for their well-deserved nominations, and we look forward to working with all of the FCC commissioners in the near future.