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NYC’s Chief Technology Officer Quits ‘Industry Stacked’ FCC Broadband Committee

Phillip Dampier April 4, 2018 Public Policy & Gov't, Wireless Broadband No Comments

Gamiño (Image: Mayoral Photography Office)

New York City’s chief technology officer is fed up with a FCC broadband advisory board that is intentionally stacked with cable and phone company interests and has quit the panel after claiming his recommendations were ignored.

Miguel Gamiño Jr. wrote in his March 29 resignation letter that any further participation on the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) that doesn’t accept anything except the telecom industry’s agenda was a waste of his time.

“It is clear that despite good faith efforts by both the staff and members involved, the membership structure and meeting format of the BDAC has skewed the drafting of the proposed recommendations towards industry priorities without regard for a true public-private partnership.” Gamiño wrote. “These circumstances give me no choice but to step away from this committee in order to direct the City’s energy and resources to alternative forums that provide more productive opportunities for achieving the kind of cooperative progress in advancing broadband deployment in the public interest.”

He is the second major public official to call it quits on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee. In January, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo stormed off the board claiming it only paid “lip service” to the concept of broadband expansion in the public interest. Liccardo accused the BDAC of being little more than an industry lobbying group being put in charge of shaping America’s future broadband policies.

“I have expressed concerns with other municipal colleagues in multiple meetings and documents that the makeup of the BDAC, with roughly 75 percent of members representing large telecommunications and cable companies or interests aligned with those companies, would result in recommendations unfavorable to localities looking to responsibly manage public rights-of-way to promote public safety, quality of life, and other priorities,” Gamiño added. “This has resulted in the BDAC producing pre-packaged one-size-fits all proposals that industry lobbyists have pushed nationwide rather than working in a cooperative fashion to find creative solutions to dynamic local issues.”

Gamiño noted that his working group of public officials had been effectively sidelined, and there has been no effort to replace Mayor Liccardo after he resigned three months ago. The final recommendations of the BDAC are likely to run contrary to the public interest, warned Gamiño.

“I am concerned that the current draft of the code could lead to municipalities entering into agreements with wireless providers that are counter to the interests of their constituents,” wrote Gamiño. “Most importantly, we do not believe that the recommendations will help close the digital divide. Therefore, we are not able to recommend that a municipality adopt the code without significant legal and financial analysis or for it to be referenced as a ‘model’ for legislatures, the FCC, or other regulatory bodies.”

The suggestion by two public officials that the BDAC effectively used them as ‘window dressing’ to legitimize the wireless industry’s agenda to ease restrictions on antennas and tower siting threatens the legitimacy of the Committee itself.

In Liccardo’s comments regarding his resignation, he also dismissed the BDAC as an industry-stacked, de facto wireless company lobbying group.

The BDAC already threatens to become a political football. In late January, Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn warned BDAC’s single standard for broadband expansion was unlikely to work in every community.

“As I have said many, many times before, one size does not fit all, and private industry infrastructure investments do not always flow to communities that are most in need,” Clyburn said.

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