President-elect Donald Trump has added two new advisers to the Federal Communications Commission’s landing team, including the first person with hands-on telecommunications experience.
David Morken is the co-founder and CEO of Bandwidth and the co-founder of Republic Wireless, which are coordinating cell service providers. Roslyn Layton is a professor at Aalborg University in Denmark and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). They join Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison, who are also AEI contributors.
Although Morken has experience running a telecommunications company, his business model differs from traditional cell service providers like AT&T and Verizon, due to the fact that its technology has operated on Wi-Fi for talk, text, and data since its inception. When Wi-Fi isn’t available, users can connect to the Sprint network to achieve full functionality. In 2013, Republic Wireless’ services cost about five times less than the average plan from a traditional carrier, pushing the market to turn toward making products more accessible to Wi-Fi.
Unlike the other landing team members, Morken hasn’t activity rejected the FCC’s net neutrality ruling, which places restrictions on Internet Service Providers to provide access to all content without favor for certain sites, even though some mobile providers challenged the decision in court.
Layton, however, said that the FCC’s decision to regulate ISPs after years of little to no regulation will impede growth because previously companies were able to experiment with business models in which consumers have benefited, such as Morken’s business model. Layton claimed that under the new rules, the partnership between AT&T and Apple that spurred the iPhone would be scrutinized by the FCC. Therefore, net neutrality is still subject to change under a Republican-led FCC.
Layton also said that the FCC provided no economic analysis to support net neutrality and that the FCC should adopt “soft” net neutrality rules instead of “hard” rules.
“Countries with hard rules (Netherlands, Chile, and Slovenia) have experienced a decline their respective edge provider innovation since adopting hard rules,” Layton wrote on June 14, 2016. “It is no surprise Google and Netflix, which lobby heavily for the rules, have increased their market share particularly in countries with hard rules.”
Layton said that the FCC’s net neutrality decision was unusual because of its 3-2 party line vote and active support from President Obama.
“Regulatory agencies need to be at an arm’s length from politics, make evidenced-based assessments, and ensure that decisions about critical industries do not amount to the handing out of political favors,” Layton wrote on Sept. 6, 2015.
Layton also suggested that one of the judges who voted in favor of net neutrality in the D.C. Circuit Court decision on open Internet, Judge Sri Srinivasan, only voted that way to side with the Democrat-led FCC in order to gain favor for a possible Supreme Court nomination under a Democratic president.
“If this is the case, it alludes to the precariousness of telecom policy, that the simple fact of one person on a five-member bipartisan commission can make the difference in whether a policy is supported or not,” Layton wrote.