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July 11, 2017 by Tom Cohen

Infrastructure Takes Center Stage at the FCC

While many federal agencies are still treading water, the FCC is moving ahead full speed, with an aggressive agenda by Chairman Pai and new staff leadership in the Commission’s Bureaus and Offices. In addition, the FCC appears headed towards having a full complement of Commissioners with the President nominating Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the Democrat seat and Brendan Carr, currently the FCC’s General Counsel, to fill the Republican seat. It is possible the Senate can confirm these two nominees by Congress’s August recess, although September is more likely since hold-ups are not uncommon.

In the meantime, Chairman Pai moves ahead, and July will a busy month, especially for “infrastructure” issues. On the 17th, reply comments are due in the two proceedings to speed access to critical infrastructure (e.g. poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way) by wireline and wireless providers.  Also on the 17th, initial comments are due on the Commission’s proposal to undo the 2015 Open Internet Order and “Restore Internet Freedom.” (Reply comments are due a month later.) I expect the Chairman will try to complete action on all of these proceedings later this year. 

Also to advance the Chairman’s “infrastructure” agenda, on the 20th, the overall Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) meets to examine the progress of the many Working Groups. Over the past six weeks, the BDAC’s Working Groups have been meeting with a directive to produce by this fall their reports and model codes for removing barriers to network deployments. 

In other matters, comments are due later in the month on the Commission’s inquiry to examine barriers providers face in accessing multi-tenant environments, including apartments, condos, and planned developments. This proceeding stems from comments filed earlier this year on whether the recent San Francisco Ordinance mandating access to MTEs violates FCC regulations. I do not expect the FCC will overturn this ordinance, and the FCC has yet to determine the extent of its authority either to demand building owners provide access or restrict states or local governments from adopting such laws (although it can tell providers not to enter into exclusive agreements).

So, I would not take too much time off in July…or for that matter later this year. Lots of policy making is now on the way.