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Government The Internet Communications Network Networking Republicans The Almighty Buck Politics

Trump's FCC Chairman Pick Ajit Pai Vows To Close Broadband 'Digital Divide' (arstechnica.com) 292

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On his first full day as Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Republican Ajit Pai yesterday spoke to FCC staff and said one of his top priorities will be bringing broadband to all Americans. "One of the most significant things that I've seen during my time here is that there is a digital divide in this country -- between those who can use cutting-edge communications services and those who do not," Pai said (transcript). "I believe one of our core priorities going forward should be to close that divide -- to do what's necessary to help the private sector build networks, send signals, and distribute information to American consumers, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else. We must work to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans." Pai promised to "hear all points of view -- to approach every issue with a literal open door and a figurative open mind," as the FCC "confronts this and many other challenges." Pai didn't offer any specific initiatives for closing the digital divide yesterday, but in September 2016 he outlined a "digital empowerment agenda." The plan included "remov[ing] regulatory barriers to broadband deployment," changes to pole attachment rules, and "dig once" policies that install broadband conduit when roads are dug up during any road and highway construction project. He also proposed setting aside 10 percent of spectrum auction proceeds for deployment of mobile broadband in rural areas. Pai suggested requiring mobile carriers to build out service to 95 percent of the population in areas where they have spectrum licenses; he noted that some licenses only required service for 66 percent or 75 percent of residents, a problem in sparsely populated rural areas. At the same time, he proposed extending initial spectrum license terms from 10 years to 15 years to give the carriers more time to complete the construction. Pai also proposed creating "gigabit opportunity zones" in areas where average household income is below 75 percent of the national median. In these areas, state and local lawmakers would have to "adopt streamlined, broadband deployment-friendly policies," and there would be tax incentives and tax credits for companies building high-speed networks.
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Trump's FCC Chairman Pick Ajit Pai Vows To Close Broadband 'Digital Divide'

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  • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @05:02PM (#53738475) Journal

    Yes, we want to bring broadband to all Americans... so my ex-clients can gouge the shit out of them with rent-seeking behavior, unneeded service caps and fees, and charging content providers that aren't directly owned by the ISP access fees after we shitcan Net Neutrality!

    • by Anonymous Cow Ward ( 4161549 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @05:24PM (#53738681)
      It's still better to have it be available at some price than not available at all. If the infrastructure gets built, future administrations have more ability to reign in the abuses.
      • by rsborg ( 111459 )

        It's still better to have it be available at some price than not available at all. If the infrastructure gets built, future administrations have more ability to reign in the abuses.

        Whatever happened keeping free market actually free? Seems the Obama excuses for bigger government are now parroted by Trump except replace government with telcos.
        Lets do what Clinton did and give Telcos a bunch of money and hope they have our best interests at heart!

        • I think it's a bit harder to keep it free when you have a natural monopoly situation like telcos. I personally generally like the way that Europe does it; infrastructure and ISPs are different entities, and those who own the infrastructure rent it out to different ISPs. Even accounting for differences in population distribution, their prices are lower than ours. Obviously, we shouldn't just give them money, but building the infrastructure either directly or via carefully controlled subsidies gives plenty of
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Only if it isn't required to live a reasonable life. In some places all the government services and information have moved online, and businesses have shut down their shops and call centres. Even in the UK it got to the stage where getting any kind of good deal on utilities required net access.

        If you are going to allow virtual monopolies and price gouging, it needs to be something you really can live without.

        • Hmm. Well, that's a fair point, but most rural areas in the US are still far from that. I'd also say that it's unreasonable to expect the Trump administration to deal with price gouging, but building the infrastructure is at least still a positive step, and I doubt he's going to move the government as a whole to an online-only stance.
      • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

        future administrations have more ability to reign in the abuses.

        Thank you, I needed a good laugh.

        • Well, you have Obama to thank for that. "I've got a pen and a phone" was how he phrased that whole "fuck Congress, I can do what I want" thing. Precedent is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

          Ultimately, I have no real problem with the notion of making broadband available to everyone. But this (probably) isn't the way to do it.

          Note that I use the word "probably".

          A counterpoint: Rural Electrification Act. FDR's version of the broadband divide. My grandparents wouldn't have had electricity without it.

          In ot

          • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

            "I've got a pen and a phone" was how he phrased that whole "fuck Congress, I can do what I want" thing.

            Which he did only well after Republicans in Congress said "fuck Obama [pbs.org]". And even then Obama's Executive Order count (I presume that's what you're referring to, anyway) is still one of the lowest in the last century [wikipedia.org], by raw or per year.

            If you want to talk about people who say "fuck Congress", President Trump has so far signed 12 executive orders, which makes his rate 285.7 per year, the second highest in th

        • They have the ability - maybe not the inclination, but the ability.

          And on the topic of Obama's Executive Order usage: yes, he used fewer numerically than previous POTUSes, but the way he used it to circumvent Congress was unique. Understandable given that he wanted to do anything at all, certainly, but it still set a precedent. Even with good intentions, he upset the checks and balances between branches in a bad way.
      • It's still better to have it be available at some price than not available at all.

        LOL. Nice troll.

        Something you can't afford is of no use.

        • Something nobody is using isn't of use to the companies either. Especially if the government chips in for infrastructure (and makes sure the money is used for that), they aren't going to price it so high that nobody uses it.
      • have more ability to reign in

        "Rein in". The euphemism is about horses, not kings.

    • Assuming it goes that far. I'm guessing a huge federal payout to the telecoms, of which not a penny gets spent on rural broadband. To meet their obligations, the telecoms lobby to have the definition of broadband lowered, suddenly millions more have "broadband"...mission accomplished.

    • Yes, we want to bring broadband to all Americans... so my ex-clients can gouge the shit out of them with rent-seeking behavior, unneeded service caps and fees, and charging content providers that aren't directly owned by the ISP access fees after we shitcan Net Neutrality!

      Not to be all devils advocate but the same thing was said about Tom Wheeler [newyorker.com] when he was picked by Obama to head the FCC. And Wheeler ended up being a strong advocate for Net Neutrality and tried limiting cable and telephone monopolies. Of course the odds are that Ajit Pai will be so deep in the pockets of the cable and telephone companies that it would take a search team three weeks to find his nose, but it is not unheard of that a former lobbyist bites the hand that fed them.

    • If net neutrality is violated, then the service provided is not "internet" (*cough* AOL). In which case, tax breaks, subsidies, safe harbor, etc. do not apply.

  • I'm all in favor of this, since I think expanding access will help lots of people in poorly connected communities. What concerns me, though, is that Mr Pai is an opponent of Net Neutrality, the abolition of which would harm many people across the whole country.

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @05:39PM (#53738793)
    So he'll be closing the divide. By slowing down Internet for ones who still have fast connections.
  • by Sydin ( 2598829 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @05:41PM (#53738805)

    If Pai is truly a believer in free market and competition, then don't stop at just knocking down net neutrality. Remove the regional monopolies that restrict where existing ISP's can and cannot do business. Remove roadblocks to cities building municipal fiber, since this only creates more competition so long as they're on a level playing field with private ISP's. Lift restrictions on last mile unbundling so that more companies can enter the market and offer competing services.

    The fact is net neutrality was such a necessity only because there are few players in the market and limited choice for consumers. Who cares if ISP's can create fast lanes and throttle non-partnered content if I have a list of 20 ISP's with broadband speeds to choose from, since there will always be those whose model is to offer a more open package, even if it is at a higher price. The ISP's are crying about regulation, but only when it's regulations on what they can do. Once you talk about remove regulations on what their competitors can do, suddenly these restrictions need to be upheld. Because if you gave the average Comcast customer the option to choose another ISP with better customer service, no data caps, and more transparent billing practices they'd take it in a heartbeat, even if meant an increase in monthly price.

    If Pai truly walks his talk and heavily deregulates the industry by removing barriers to entry and regional monopolies in addition to net neutrality, he'll be a far better FCC Commissioner than Wheeler ever was. If however he's yet another industry talking head who's only interested in removing consumer protections while still leaving in place industry friendly regulation, then nothing good will come from his chairmanship.

  • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @05:50PM (#53738867)

    ...and there would be tax incentives and tax credits for companies building high-speed networks.

    Translation: "Let's give billions more taxpayer dollars to the worthless telecoms/cable companies."

    • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @06:33PM (#53739141)

      ...and there would be tax incentives and tax credits for companies building high-speed networks.

      Translation: "Let's give billions more taxpayer dollars to the worthless telecoms/cable companies."

      That was my initial reaction, too. This will probably turn into federal subsidies for telecom companies without any kind of requirement that the telecom companies actually do what the subsidies were supposed to pay for.

    • by radl33t ( 900691 )
      sweet, make it rain
  • So the big boys will be able to lock out competition and do whatever they want. Sweet.

  • This will be a good thing. I like good things. More good things please.
  • Isn't that what FCC has been *trying* to do, but has been blocked at every possible avenue, if not by corporations, then by congress, who have stated that FCC is exceeding it's authority?

    And hasn't Trump stated that he is uncategorically nixing Net Neutrality?

    Based on all the other actions that have occurred in just the last few days, I have serious doubts that what the US consumer gets will be in their best interests.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Isn't that what FCC has been *trying* to do, but has been blocked at every possible avenue, if not by corporations, then by congress, who have stated that FCC is exceeding it's authority?

      Yeah, kinda like how Obama wanted to give us universal health insurance, but the Republicans in Congress wouldn't let him because it was "too Socalist", and the compromise was forcing everyone to become customers of for-profit insurance companies. But now Trump is in office and he's going to give health insurance for all [bbc.com].. And he can't do it by amending the ACA, because then the Republican's can't talk about how they repealed that miserable failure Obamacare and gave us this new insurance for everyone (that

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @06:05PM (#53738979)
    like Electricity, Gas or water, only with actual competition, no more being monopolized by the cable company and/or phone company then when city, county and/or state gov can sell fiber to the door at a nominal fee
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @06:29PM (#53739111) Journal

    The good news is that everyone will have access to broadband. The bad news is that the only content will be a single Twitter account.

  • The problem here is that the federal government just doesn't have much control over many of these regulation, as they are mostly down to state and local regulations. At the federal level, then, implementing these policies as Pai describes isn't just about removing regulations: it's about increased regulations of the states, something that Republicans have been historically against, and which may open the way for court challenges.

    I also worry that he explicitly mentions private industry, but doesn't appear

  • by nobuddy ( 952985 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2017 @07:30PM (#53739451) Homepage Journal

    Translation: "We will be giving out another run of YUUUUGE chunks of money to telcos to roll out rural broadband, which they again will choose not to do. We will never demand our billions of dollars back for the service they contracted to do but refused to provide. Just like last time"

  • I have been looking forward to the intersection between populist appeal and progressive reform!! About time we get our sweet stuff instead of blowing it up in the desert! I am jazzed. Awesome!! Maybe for his next trick Trump will destroy the evil and much hated cartel of telecom companies!
  • by cyberchondriac ( 456626 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @11:13AM (#53742263) Journal

    Odd wording. Broadband is not denied to people on those grounds, it's because they reside in an area where the infrastructure just isn't in place yet (generally for financial, ROI reasons - poor neighborhoods are poor). This reads like I've had broadband but my next door neighbor was denied it because she's a woman; or Brazilian, or gay, or Buddhist, or some combination thereof.

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