Tuesday, September 12, 2017

FCC Chair Pai papers over market failure as regulatory failure, claims satellite-based advanced telecom is competitive

Can a free market solve the digital divide? | WUWM: Pai: There are two different aspects to the answer to that. No. 1 is that I have focused on digital redlining as an issue

Wood: We should define what digital redlining is.

Pai: Digital redlining is the notion that within a certain geographic area, a company might have a business case for building out in areas A, B and C. But in area D they simply say, "We're not going to deploy there because we don't see the return on the investment," or for whatever reason. So from a regulatory perspective, we want to make sure that there are no rules standing in the way of them doing that. 


Had regulations been obstacles to deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure over the past 20 years or so, they would have been well identified by now. The issue of regulatory impediments is a red herring. As Pai points out, the issue is primarily economic insofar as redlining occurs in areas where the return on investment isn't sufficiently robust to justify the capital expenditure. Market failure is not regulatory failure. 


Pai: Absolutely. I mean, we can't punish companies to the extent that they don't build out and they don't have federal obligations. But what we do try to do is encourage them as strongly as we can. If they're violating FCC rules, certainly we will go after them for doing that. And in the meantime we're going to try to keep encouraging competition as best we can. Some of these smaller providers too, they're really providing an impetus in the marketplace. A couple of months ago, we approved for the first time a satellite company's application. They want to deploy 720 satellites in low-earth orbit. And they think that would be a really substantial competitor to terrestrial.

Instead of connecting all homes and businesses with modern fiber optic infrastructure, Pai is tacitly endorsing a lower service standard provided by satellites that can't provide the carrying capacity to accommodate rapidly growing demand for bandwidth that is doubling about every three years. As many Americans who reluctantly rely upon it are painfully aware, satellite connectivity is a poor substitute and hardly competition for terrestrial landline telecom infrastructure.

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