Ex-FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly Returns To Talk Broadband

(Image credit: Future Media)

Former commissioner Michael O'Rielly is back on the FCC broadband buildout and investment stage, only this time as a witness on the topic at a Hill hearing this week.

Also Read: The O'Rielly Factor

Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is holding a hearing March 17 about the spending, rather than the wearing, of the green.

The hearing is focused on what progress has been made through a variety of subsidy programs offering up billions of dollars to expand connectivity in rural and underserved communities. "Witnesses will have the opportunity to discuss the effectiveness of these programs in delivering connectivity to unserved and underserved Americans throughout the country," Cantwell's office said. 

The programs include the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, NTIA grant programs and the billions of dollars in new money Congress has allocated for E-rate and other subsidy programs.

Also Read: LIFT Act Would Allocate $100 Billion for Universal Broadband

In addition to O'Rielly, witnesses for the hearing, “Recent Federal Actions to Expand Broadband: Are We Making Progress?", include Dr. Christopher Ali, associate professor, Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia; Justin Forde, senior director, government relations, Midco; and Jon Wilkins, partner, Quadra Partners. 

O'Rielly has long been critical of the potential of overbuilding existing privately-funded broadband in government efforts to speed universal broadband. "I realize the incredible need to get the dollars out the door to help stimulate the economy," he told the magazine shortly before he left the commission and as Congress was approving billions of new broadband money in the CARES Act, "but that is not how you should do telecom policy, especially when you are going to crush existing providers in the marketplace."

"Overbuilding itself is not problematic," he said, "it’s subsidized overbuilding using CARES Act funding or any government funding. There will likely be more stimulus money and infrastructure money and it has to be very clear how the dollars will be spent."

Look for O'Rielly to provide similar words of caution as Democrats talk about putting as much as $100 billion into subsidizing universal broadband. 

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.