Assuming that once the recounts, recriminations and requisite lawsuits are settled – and Joe Biden becomes president – what will the federal telecommunications landscape look like? Ajit Pai will be replaced by a Biden-appointed FCC Chairman, giving the powerful Commission a 3-2 Democrat majority. For at least four years.
Analysts feel that major policy changes will come from a reconstituted FCC. Mergers and acquisitions will be far more thoroughly scrutinized and not so readily granted, while current proposals and actions to take away liability protections from social media giants (Facebook, Twitter, Google et al) that are thought to unfairly favor liberal views, will be scrapped.
A top Democrat priority to close the digital divide will be accelerated. Former Democrat Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who is a front runner for Chairwoman, has called for investing $80 billion over 5 years to bring high speed internet to the estimated 20 million Americans that are now without it. Jessica Rosenworcel, a current Commissioner and another contender for Chairwoman, has advocated many steps to bring internet access to all.
But the biggest issue ahead is the ever-controversial question of net neutrality. Democrats favor the more stringent Title I regulation of internet service providers as telecommunications carriers, a new policy implemented by the FCC under President Obama. The Pai Commission changed the broadband regulatory regime to Title II, a lighter touch classification of internet companies as information service providers. Now, Internet regulation will probably be changing again.
As they say, elections have consequences. We will in all probability be seeing many of those consequences on our industry.