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NYC Official Quits FCC Broadband Committee, Alleging Industry Bias

New York City’s CTO quit the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee last week, the second member to do so this year. Miguel Gamiño Jr. asserted that the committee has skewed its proposed recommendations to fall in line with industry priorities.

Formed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at the beginning of 2017, the BDAC is an advisory board tasked with providing the agency with recommendations on to how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access by removing or reducing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.

In his March 28 resignation letter to Pai, spotted by Broadcasting & Cable,Gamiño said that after participating in “100 hours of calls,” attending a full day in-person meeting in Washington D.C. and submitting “countless edits, drafts and comments,” he has determined that “despite good faith efforts by both the staff and members involved, the membership structure and meeting format of the BDAC has skewed the drafting of the proposed recommendations towards industry priorities without regard for a true public-private partnership.”

Gamiño cited the makeup of the BDAC as a concern, noting that roughly 75 percent of members represent large telecommunications and cable companies or interests involved with those companies.

“This has resulted in the BDAC producing pre-packaged one-size-fits all proposals that industry lobbyists have pushed nationwide rather than working in a cooperative fashion to find creative solutions to dynamic local issues,” he wrote.

Gamiño said that his working group could not recommend municipalities adopt the BDAC’s code or it be referenced as a “model” for regulatory bodies.

“I am concerned that the current draft of the code could lead to municipalities entering into agreements with wireless providers that are counter to the interests of their constituents. Most importantly, we do not believe that the recommendations will help close the digital divide,” Gamiño wrote.

Gamiño said the circumstances left him with “no choice but to step away from this committee” so that he can focus the city’s resources on alternative avenues, “that provide more productive opportunities for achieving the kind of cooperative progress in advancing broadband deployment in the public interest.”

He pointed to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s nationwide partnership with more than a dozen other mayors to promote net neutrality principals as an important network to share best practices surrounding broadband deployment.

Gamiño’s departure comes after the working group’s former Vice Chair Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, quit the committee in January, also citing a bias toward recommendations that favor industry interests.

In his letter, Gamiño noted that no efforts had been made to replace Liccardo on BDAC or add additional voices familiar with city operations.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has also echoed criticisms that concerns of local municipalities were not being fully addressed by BDAC.

“While I appreciate the BDAC’s acknowledgement that public-private partnerships may provide solutions to bridge those divides, I noticed that there was an expressed preference for industry over municipalities in broadband deployment efforts,” Clyburn told the advisory committee in January. “As I have said many, many times before, one size does not fit all, and private industry infrastructure investments do not always flow to communities that are most in need.”

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