& cplSiteName &

Trump & Consequences

Carol Wilson
3/6/2017
50%
50%

Like many other sectors of US life, the telecom industry is quickly learning that the Trump administration means business when it comes to rolling back regulations. In the six weeks since Donald Trump became president, his FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has taken dead aim on multiple fronts, rolling back privacy rules on the use of customer data, giving a green light to zero-rating of favored online content by closing an agency probe there and promising further moves on the Net Neutrality front, to weaken the bold action taken by his predecessor, Tom Wheeler.

On the latter front, it's not yet clear what Pai can do, given that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's move to reclassify broadband under Title II was upheld in court. Pai has signaled his intent to reverse Net Neutrality, however, and may well have Congressional assistance in doing so.

This kind of regulatory whiplash was to be expected -- Wheeler's FCC was as aggressive as any previous agency in working to protect consumers from what it saw as abuses at the hands of a limited set of very large broadband operators. Trump came into office promising to unshackle businesses from such government interference and his choice of Pai sealed that deal. The former Verizon attorney had fought Wheeler on every front, voting against the privacy rules, Net Neutrality and other pro-consumer initiatives as well, including Lifeline services and expansion of the E-rate program.

There are still some unknowns, however. Chief among these is how the telecom sector will react. Will zero-rating of content on wireless networks in any way slow down the shift towards unlimited data plans? Given AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s push to buy Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s acquisition-fueled plunge into content as well, will we see obvious abuses of this approach to drive their own content packages -- and subsequent consumer reaction?


You're invited to attend Light Reading’s Big Communications Event -- the ONE event that delivers context and clarity to the software-driven future. There's still time to register and communications service providers get in free.


On the Net Neutrality front, how hard will the telecom and cable giants push to get these rules rolled back -- either at the FCC or Congressional level -- and can their efforts pass the inevitable court challenge?

Where Pai's actions are concerned, there is a bit of a disconnect between his public statements on wanting to close the digital divide and his previous voting record on initiatives in that regard, including Lifeline service. He's being accused by pro-consumer groups of favoring government funding of private sector buildouts, an approach that works in some places but not in the hardcore areas that remain unserved, where the cost of delivering broadband is still prohibitive.

But it's clear the current tilt of the FCC favors the bigger players in telecom -- and I am including the big cable guys in that number as well. There is no longer the assumption made, as it was for at least the last four years, that the FCC needs to act to protect and extend competition, and thus the consumer.

How will the "winners" in this scenario respond to their newfound freedoms? I think that's where things could get tricky. Obvious abuses or even a steady drip of what is perceived as anti-consumer behavior could energize those already concerned about Trump's impact to focus on a major telecom operator or the sector in general, in ways that could have a negative impact.

Remember that Net Neutrality was pushed to the fore by a groundswell of consumer interest, driven by one talk show host. Just imagine what today's more mobilized and media-driven resistance might resemble.

Alternatively, proving that a less regulated industry can innovate faster, in ways that benefit consumers and not just the bottom line, would be broadly welcomed. The question is, are regulations the thing actually holding the industry back where innovation is concerned?

I'm not entirely convinced that is true. I'm also guessing that there won't be any sudden decrease in the number of lawyers and lobbyists employed by telecom network operators. I was among those who were sometimes critical of the Wheeler FCC for what seemed like an over-reach. This is a chance for those who said all that government regulation was an impediment to better service to prove that to be true.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Rewired
Web giant contributes seed code to new open source group within ONF that is redefining SDN and promising faster innovation and upgrades.
Internet users have grown used to being tracked online, but will they ever accept the fact that some applications need special treatment by ISPs?
New ads call for Internet Bill of Rights that applies to ISPs and content giants, but what are the chances Congress can get this done?
Better Internet access for rural areas is getting a lot of attention from the Trump administration but the plan of action seems less than solid.
Assuming they can get the software architecture right, open source projects represent a faster way to consensus on big issues, he says.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders talks with VMware's Shekar Ayyar, who explains why cloud architectures are becoming more distributed, what that means for workloads, and why telcos can still be significant cloud services players.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
I'm Back for the Future of Communications
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 4/20/2018
US Investigating Huawei for Sanctions Violations – Report
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 4/25/2018
AT&T Exec Dishes That He's Not So Hot on Rival-Partner Comcast
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/19/2018
Facebook Hearings Were the TIP of the Data Iceberg
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/20/2018
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
What's in the Box?
By Huawei
Beginning With the End In Mind
By Kevin Taylor, for Huawei
All Partner Perspectives