FCC’s Gomez says connectivity and spectrum are her top priorities

BOULDER, COLORADO —FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez, who was joined the agency last September, said that her top priorities for the FCC include setting the stage for vibrant competition and promoting connectivity for every consumer. Of course, key to that connectivity is making spectrum available, which Gomez said also is another area of top importance.

Gomez outlined her key priorities during a wide-ranging Fireside Chat with Brad Bernthal, executive director of the University of Colorado’s Silicon Flatirons conference Sunday.

Silicon Flatirons hosts an annual conference here and this year’s theme was “Global Fractures in Technology Policy,” with a strong focus on the role of artificial intelligence.

Gomez said that prior to her appointment on the FCC she was busy overseeing the preparations for the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), which required her to travel around the world and meet with other regulators and build relationships with them in advance of WRC.  She said that experience has helped her realize the importance of trust and relationships. “At the FCC, if you want to work together and get good policy, you need to work together with your colleagues,” she said.

Gomez also said that this philosophy works well when it comes to working closely with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on spectrum strategy to get the best outcome for spectrum users.  “Spectrum coordination usually goes smoothly but when you have a failure, it is spectacular because everyone sees it,” she noted.

Gomez also touted the White House’s National Spectrum Strategy, which was released last November in coordination with the NTIA and the FCC. The goal is to identify more spectrum that could be available for new uses and requires input from other agencies.

But one area of particular concern for Gomez is the potential end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers a $30 per month broadband subsidy to around 23 million U.S. consumers. The program is slated to run out of money in April, which is likely to result in a wave of disconnects. The FCC said in January that it will stop accepting new enrollments to the program February 7. “I’m terribly concerned about this,” Gomez said. “This will impact their ability to fully participate in current society and the economy because everything we do is online.”

Plus, she said she is concerned that this will result in a loss of trust in the program and the government because these households signed up for this program and now it is going away.

A bi-partisan bill that would provide $7 billion to fund the ACP was introduced in January but its likelihood of getting passed is uncertain.

But one area that Gomez believes holds potential excitement for the future is the satellite-to-cellular direct-to-device area.  Gomez said that the implications for being able to connect anyone from anywhere in areas that have not been able to get coverage through fiber or wireless is exciting, particularly for first responders. She also added that the U.S. is “out front” in this area and that the rest of the world is watching closely to see how the U.S. handles this.