Clyburn: Subsidies Should Not Support Duplicate Providers

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn says the government should not be spending money to subsidize multiple carriers where one is providing quality service.

That came in a speech at a Montana High Tech Jobs Summit in Missoula today (Oct. 9), according to a copy of the prepared text.

"One of our primary goals at the FCC, is to be good stewards of ratepayer dollars," Clyburn said. "That means moving away from the past practice of using our high-cost program to fund multiple networks in the same geographic area. We should not support a company that is serving an area where another provider is providing quality service without a subsidy. That is fundamentally inconsistent with protecting consumers and it does not enable the market to work as intended."

But she also said that closing the digital divide is about more than just getting to the home. It needs to be affordable and people need to know why it is so important, which is why she promotes digital literacy as well as subsidies where they are needed.

Republican chairman Ajit Pai has made closing the digital divide a piority, but Clyburn invoked another high-profile Republican -- former President George W. Bush -- to provide some cautionary advice about the need to go beyond just being there.

"Another point often lost when we talk about the digital divide, is what happens when we actually bridge the divide," she said. "Too often, we declare mission accomplished when we’ve connected a home that has been forever without, but I challenge you to take a more nuanced view. We should only claim victory, when a consumer is meaningfully using their connectivity, to take advantage of the economic, educational, and health care opportunities, it affords."


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John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.