President-elect Donald Trump’s latest hire to oversee the upcoming transition at the FCC appears to be as staunchly opposed to net neutrality rules as the first two.
Trump’s team said this week that Roslyn Layton will become part of the FCC landing team, joining former Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison and economist Jeff Eisenach. All three members of the team served as visiting fellows at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, and all three have vocally criticized the net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC under the Obama administration.
“The FCC’s recent actions and the White House’s intervention is inconsistent with a stable, evidence-based regulatory approach,” Layton and Jamison wrote last year in a joint piece responding to the FCC’s adoption of rules addressing net neutrality. “The situation distracts the FCC from its mission-critical responsibilities, such as the upcoming incentive auction to get more spectrum in the marketplace and meet consumers’ increasing demand for wireless technologies.
“Moreover, the unilateral approach pursued by the FCC to impose such rules forces industry and consumers to incur unnecessary litigation costs and to operate in an uncertain environment,” Layton and Jamison continued. “It is also possible that the FCC’s risky path may result in net neutrality rules being struck down all together.”
Eisenach wrote two years ago that net neutrality “is crony capitalism pure and simple—an effort by one group of private interests to enrich itself at the expense of another group by using the power of the state.”
Those comments are in stark contrast to Chairman Tom Wheeler's use of the Democrats’ one-vote advantage at the FCC to push aggressively for net neutrality rules. Wheeler’s tenure as chairman will end when Trump takes office Jan. 20, but he may opt to stay on as a Democratic commissioner until his term ends in November 2018. He has yet to discuss his plans.
Regardless, Trump’s election victory is sure to give Republicans the same one-vote advantage on the five-seat commission that Democrats enjoyed under President Obama.
“Though we expect some compromise with respect to net neutrality, we expect the idea of paying for fast lanes (paid prioritization) to be front and center in this debate” once the Trump administration is in place, Jefferies analysts wrote in a recent research note. “In this environment, broadband providers would undoubtedly benefit, while potentially prioritizing owned content. Content providers are likely to oppose any change, though larger, well capitalized companies could hold an advantage relative to those unwilling or unable to pay for fast lanes.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg noted that Layton is a staunch advocate of spectrum sharing and the Internet of Things. She has studied at Denmark’s Aalborg University and is familiar with European telecom markets and policy, which gives her an international perspective, and she recently penned a column in U.S. News and World Report urging the FCC to give businesses more access to spectrum.
“In order to ensure a timely and aggressive deployment of IoT devices and IoT related technologies, our federal agencies, which are currently sitting on two-thirds of America’s spectrum—the invisible airwaves that power cellular networks and mobile broadband connectivity—must begin sharing their swath of wireless airwaves with private industry,” she wrote.