FCC's Brendan Carr Blasts Biden's Broadband Billions

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Republican FCC commissioner Brendan Carr has slammed the Biden Administration's planned $100 billion in new broadband deployment investment, calling it a big potential blunder that demonstrates the new policy of "measure never, cut checks."

That came in an April 8 op ed in The Hill

Carr, who headed up the efforts to streamline wireless and wired broadband deployments under FCC chairman Ajit Pai, wrote that rather than pour more money on the issue with plenty still unspent, the Administration should be continuing to cut "red tape that continues to plague infrastructure projects."

The FCC under Pai voted to streamline tower citing historic and environmental reviews and put shot clocks on those decisions by local authorities.

In fact, Carr was essentially echoing what his former chairman, Ajit Pai, was saying on Fox News of the Biden plan.

Also Read: FCC's Rural Broadband Subsidy Bidding Begins

Carr pointed out that billions in broadband subsidies administered by the FCC under programs including the Universal Service Fund and Rural Digital Opportunities Fund have yet to be spent, which he said was about $40 billion in total, and potentially even more than that. 

"During the 2020 campaign, President Biden pledged a moon shot $20 billion for rural broadband. We now have double that amount waiting to be distributed," Carr wrote. "Yet Democrats are poised to pour a hundred billion dollars on top of those billions upon billions of unspent dollars."

Carr took issue with the potential for the money to overbuild existing service or the threat of rate regulation given that the Administration is using speed and affordability to determine where it defines broadband availability. "Rate regulation would be a surefire way to scare off the private sector investment needed to bridge the digital divide," he wrote.

He also took issue with the administration's emphasis on funding government buildouts, which he said often fail leaving taxpayers to foot the bill, and with Biden's claim that Americans are paying more and getting less for their broadband buck is just wrong. "Like all Americans, I would be happy to pay less for Internet service. I just have no interest in paying less for service that does not work," he said.

Carr's alternative? "There is another way. Rather than appropriating additional dollars in blunderbuss fashion, we can administer the substantial funds already available to the FCC while unleashing additional private sector investment. We can do this last part by cutting the red tape that continues to plague infrastructure projects, rather than micromanaging builds through ham-handed, government-imposed conditions."

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.