What Telecom Issues Await New Administration?

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white-house2What might be the potential impact on telecom regulation under President-elect Donald Trump?

That’s actually difficult to determine because Trump said little about the tech sector during the campaign. Recode believes he may be more hands-off than President Obama, who has referred to himself as a geek at times. The president-elect will certainly be more pro-business and anti-regulation. However he recently called the proposed AT&T $85B buyout of Time Warner “poison.”

Trump said at a recent rally his administration wouldn’t sign-off on the deal because of the concentration of power between AT&T and CNN together would be too much. Meanwhile, AT&T CFO John Stephens said Wednesday the carrier looks forward to working with Trump and is still optimistic regulators will approve the deal, reported Reuters.

An overnight panic in global markets evaporated as the Dow soared 257 points on Wednesday. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq rose 1.1 percent apiece, reported CNN Money.

Several telecom issues at the FCC will be inherited by the new administration.

The new Commission will be charged with implementing the television repack and possibly the end of the incentive auction, depending on when that’s completed. The repack is a large, complex multi-year undertaking.

Keeping the momentum going on the 5G rollout will be important so the U.S. continues its leadership on wireless networks. Much work needs to be completed to make the millimeter band waves usable for commercial wireless services, reports Recode.

The 3.5GHz “shared spectrum” Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) initiative has approaching milestones, like picking and certifying administrators and developing an auction framework. The next FCC will need to address remaining opposition to the CBRS plan to keep it moving.

The FCC is speeding along to try to get Chairman Wheeler’s Business Data Services rate caps to spur market competition approved by year-end. These are the “special access” rates telecoms can charge other companies for bulk data connections — backhaul.

The issue is important to 5G because larger pipes are needed to deliver the capacity required by those services. The agency has slated the item for a vote at its November 17, open meeting, Inside Towers has reported.    

The FCC will likely keep its application of Net Neutrality high, ensuring combined distribution and content companies (like a combined AT&T-Time Warner, for example) don’t discriminate against new media and Over-The-Top players like Netflix and Amazon, believes Recode. The status of the National Broadband Plan and the push to “unlock” the set-top-box are unclear.

The question will be how much can the Wheeler FCC accomplish by year-end. “If the rhetoric of those surrounding Trump’s campaign rings true, we can expect a Republican FCC to make a big push to roll back some of the regulations put in place under President Obama such as the Title II/Net Neutrality rules,” said Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche in a client report. “There may also be a push to roll back some or all of what the FCC just did on privacy.”

November 10, 2016

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