Where Clinton and Trump stand on top US telecom issues

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sit on either side of Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the Al Smith dinner on October 20 in New York. Image: Getty

The presidential debates are finished and the U.S. is in the home stretch of the election. On November 8, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will likely be elected as the 45th President.

Whoever wins will hold policy sway over many issues hovering over the U.S. telecom sector including net neutrality, broadband access, regulatory appointees, 5G spectrum, innovation and much more.

Specifically, do Clinton and Trump view net neutrality as a needed check on ISPs and a meaningful way to ensure all internet traffic is treated equally or as an unnecessary regulation that could stifle network investment? There’s also the matter of appointing a successor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wheeler’s term extends into 2018 and he’s not legally obligated to step down, but tradition dictates that the FCC chair resigns his or her post when a new president is elected.

FierceWireless went digging to find the clearest positions from each candidate on a number of different telecom issues and compiled the answers into a handy chart.

Issue Hillary Clinton Donald Trump
Net Neutrality

Clinton has recently voiced support for the FCC’s net neutrality proposal and the agency’s intent to place broadband service under Title II regulations.

In a 2015 interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Clinton said, “I would vote for net neutrality because as I understand it, it’s Title II with a lot of changes within it in order to avoid the worst of the utility regulation. It’s a foot in the door. It’s a value statement … But it’s not the end of the discussion.”

On her website, Clinton vows to defend rules against network prioritization and “pay-for-play favoritism.”

Trump does not specifically call out net neutrality as a major platform within his campaign, but his past remarks suggest he is against government intervention in the form of Title II regulation.


Broadband Access

Clinton has pledged that all Americans will have access to 25 Mbps internet service by the end of her first term in 2020 should she be elected. As the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation pointed out, this includes continued funding of programs like the Connect America Fund and $25 billion set aside for broadband projects within her proposed $275 billion infrastructure investment plan.

Trump has yet to make public his policy on promoting broadband network expansion, but Trump’s campaign did hire a new aide earlier this month to help formulate a plan. According to Politico, Jeffrey Eisenach, who is a staunch supporter of light-touch regulation, has joined the campaign to help Trump solidify his stance on broadband issues.

Replacing Wheeler

Clinton has not indicated who she would nominate for head of the FCC, but there’s a chance she would have a decent amount of time to mull it over. Bloomberg reported that Wheeler would consider staying until the middle of 2017, a move that would provide him with more time to solidify his key initiatives like net neutrality and his pay-TV set-top reform NPRM.

As for who Clinton would eventually tap, a Politico report from earlier this year cited multiple industry sources who said that Karen Kornbluh, a Nielsen executive, and Susan Ness, a former FCC commissioner who’s helped raise funds for the Clintons, could be in line for the post.

Trump’s election as president would likely mean Wheeler steps down immediately following the inauguration. Then again, Wheeler’s term does extend out to 2018 and he’s not technically required to leave before that.

Regardless, like Clinton, Trump has not specifically mentioned any potential candidates he would appoint for the job. But, according to Politico, Trump’s tech team has briefed groups including the Internet Association and representatives from companies including Amazon, Google and Uber about his potential administrations plans.

Trump's team also reportedly urged tech industry members to submit recommendations for federal agency appointees

5G and Spectrum Allocation

Clinton plans to carry on the work the Obama administration started in terms of freeing up more spectrum for next-generation mobile networks, products and services, but at a faster rate.

“Hillary will accelerate this progress and help foster the evolution to 5G, small cell solutions and other next-generation systems that can deliver faster wireless connections,” Clinton's website said on a fact sheet.

Specifically, Clinton will focus on underutilized spectrum bands for wireless, unlicensed and shared use, and she will commit funds to testing public initiatives that will could lead to a “civic Internet of Things” that uses advanced wireless technology and data to improve fields including public safety, health care, environmental management, traffic congestion, and social welfare services.

Trump doesn’t appear to have made any public comments on best practices for making available more spectrum for mobile broadband operations.

Eisenach, however, who is reportedly the point man for Trump’s tech policy team, has previously spoken out about spectrum-related issues. Most notably, Eisenach wrote a guest column for Forbes in which he picked apart the practice of set-asides for new wireless entrants in spectrum auctions, calling the approach “spectrum favoritism” and “bad economics.”


Clinton has made innovation an integral part of her extensive tech policy platform. She intends to establish “rules of road” for innovation.

“Hillary believes the government has an important role to play in laying a foundation for broad-based innovation and economic growth – by reducing regulatory barriers to entry, promoting healthy competition and ensuring our IP laws effectively reward creators while allowing for additional experimentation,” according to Clinton’s fact sheet.

That includes plans to appoint a chief innovation advisor within the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs – whose job will entail “spearheading reforms across the government such as that spurred by the bipartisan FDA Safety and Innovation Act, which created a pathway for the quicker approval of medical device innovations to catalyze technological development.”

Trump has not publically expressed any specific plans to spur technology innovation. But a joint letter signed by an extensive list of Silicon Valley denizens described a Trump Presidency as a “disaster for innovation.” The letter included Qualcomm Chairman Paul Jacobs, former FCC chairs Reed Hundt and William Kennard and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

 “His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy – and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth,” the letter said. “Donald Trump proposes ‘shutting down’ parts of the internet as a security strategy demonstrating both poor judgment and ignorance about how technology works.”