FCC In-Fighting Thwarts Tribal Tower Siting

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The subject of increasing rural broadband deployment on Tribal Lands was the subject of unusually public bickering late Friday between FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Chairman Ajit Pai.

Clyburn issued a statement asking why almost a year has gone by and the item is not out, since Pai “repeatedly claims that closing the digital divide is among his top priorities.” She continued: “As my colleagues in the Majority are fond of saying, companies need certainty. I agree. With a substantial percentage of those living in rural areas of Tribal lands lacking high-speed broadband, the time is now for an up or down vote that will ensure that these communities do not lose the connectivity they desperately want and need.”

Pai, meanwhile, blasted back with a response, noting he circulated an item to colleagues in February 2017. The order would increase federal funding for broadband infrastructure on Tribal lands, explaining such siting is difficult, with higher operational expenses than on non-Tribal land.  

“We had three votes in favor of this item, and had those three votes for months,” stated the Chairman. He then said Clyburn’s office “privately and repeatedly threatened to withdraw her critical third vote” to pass the order over something else that was not publicly identified. Clyburn withdrew her vote Friday morning, according to the Chairman.

“If Commissioner Clyburn believes as I do that the Commission should take action to expand broadband access on Tribal lands, the way forward is simple. Instead of quietly changing her vote on a Friday morning and issuing a Friday afternoon press release designed to shift the blame, she should cast her vote in favor of an order that will increase federal funding for broadband infrastructure on Tribal lands. It’s that simple.”

February 5, 2018   

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