San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo quits FCC advisory board on broadband

The mayor of San Jose on Thursday quit an FCC broadband advisory board, decrying its lack of progress and saying the group seems to be working for the interests of the telecom industry and not the public.

The board was formed a year ago to explore speeding up deployment of high-speed internet access. According to FCC records, the committee first met in April and met for a fourth time this week.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who was vice chair of a working group that aimed to establish a model code for municipalities, described this week’s meeting in Washington, D.C., as dominated by business interests.

“One working group, which did not have a single municipal representative among its 30+ participants, created a draft model state code that included provisions to eliminate all municipal control over when, how, and whether to accept industry applications for infrastructure deployment,” he wrote in his resignation letter, which was addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

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Pai defended the group and its aims Thursday.

“The Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee and its working groups have brought together 101 participants from a range of perspectives to recommend strategies to promote better, faster, and cheaper broadband,” he said in an emailed statement. “Bridging the digital divide continues to be my top priority.”

But according to a news release Thursday by the city of San Jose, “despite the BDAC’s stated purpose of identifying resources to improve broadband access to underserved poor and rural populations, the body did not craft a single measure that identified a new or substantial source of new funding for that purpose.”

Liccardo said the committee’s concern was cost of infrastructure improvements and who would foot the bill: industry or municipalities.

“The industry’s claim that reducing municipal lease rates on public infrastructure will help it better serve the 34 million Americans without broadband access bears little resemblance to patterns of industry investment in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas,” San Jose’s news release said.

FCC Chairman Pai is no stranger to criticism about industry ties. A former Verizon lawyer, he recently pushed through a controversial repeal of net neutrality rules that benefits broadband providers, has sparked lawsuits from state attorneys general and public advocacy groups and is being fought by mostly Democratic legislators.

An updated version of this story is on MercuryNews.com.

 

Photo: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in San Jose in August 2017. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

 

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