By Michi Iljazi

Playing politics at the Federal Communications Commission

In 2017, the state of Arizona passed a law championed by conservatives and led by Gov. Doug Ducey. The law, HB 2365, streamlined the permitting process for wireless infrastructure and was heralded by many experts as a model for the nation. Taking a page from the Arizona model, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is delivering massive change in the way technology is accessed and utilized by millions of individuals nationwide. At their open meeting in March, the agency voted to “clarify and modify the procedures” on how wireless infrastructure deployments are reviewed across the country.

The vote comes at a time when it’s important to ensure communities are not left behind and that the public sector doesn’t get in the way of technological innovation, but unfortunately some on the commission voted against those communities and the race for 5G. The two Democrats at the FCC (Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel) voted against the move, and it is not only disappointing but somewhat surprising considering statements both have made in the past.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, nominated in 2011, said during her confirmation hearing that, “To prosper in the twenty-first century, all of our communities, urban, rural and everything in-between, need this access. Our communications networks and the access they provide should be the envy of the world.”

Where is the Jessica Rosenworcel who testified before the Senate Commerce Committee less than seven years ago? What changed her mind? She professed (under oath, I might add) that in order to prosper as a nation in this day and age we should be better than the rest of the world when it came to our communications networks. Yet when given the chance to improve lives, she said “no.”

Democrats on the FCC have been promoting 5G, increased access, and technological innovation for years. One only needs to look at Ms. Rosenworcel’s opening statement during her confirmation hearing:

“Communications technologies are a source of tremendous opportunity. They support our commerce, they connect our communities, and they enhance our security. They help create good jobs. And by unlocking the full potential of broadband, we will alter the way we educate, create, entertain and govern ourselves.”

When the Republicans were in the minority they voted with their Democratic colleagues to pass a unanimous rule that paved the way for 5G technology in the United States. Sadly, it appears that after a lot of hollow talk about helping those in need, securing America’s role in the race for 5G, and fostering new and innovative technologies, Ms. Rosenworcel has chosen to put politics first.

If Ms. Rosenworcel truly believed that communications technologies are so critical to our economic well-being, then why would she stand in the way of allowing for greater opportunities when it comes to increased deployment that will help encourage more access to 5G technology? What changed between 2016 and 2018? Could it be that a Republican was elected president and named a Republican chairman of the FCC? Does the philosophy of #resistance guide Democrats at the FCC?

Ms. Rosenworcel is not alone in this sudden shift on technological advancement. During the July 2016 open meeting, fellow Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said “We need to be as creative, flexible, and forward thinking on the community and opportunity inclusion front, as we are on the technological innovations front.”

That is exactly what the FCC did in the March meeting when they voted to streamline the process for wireless infrastructure development. So why did Ms. Clyburn change her mind? Again, what’s the difference between July of 2016 and March of 2018 other than Democrats aren’t running the White House and the FCC?

There was a time when both Democratic commissioners believed very much in the promise of new technologies for wireless infrastructure. Yet, when given the chance at the last open meeting, they decided to go with politics first.

Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has been making the case for fostering innovation by encouraging wireless infrastructure development, stated that “Winning the global race to 5G, and ensuring that more Americans get access to more broadband is a top priority.”

Those used to be a top priorities for Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel.

Technology continues to change and as more advancements and innovations occur in both the wireless and wireline communications space it is critical that the government do more to encourage growth, not discourage it. The FCC is doing exactly that under the leadership of Chairman Jait Pai, and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Carr. Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel should rejoin their colleagues and put America first.

Originally posted in The Washington Times.