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MMTC Asks Trump Team to Protect Free Data Plans

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has given the Trump transition team a to-do list of 12 telecom priorities for creating a more diverse media in terms of access, ownership, participation and procurement, including protecting free data business models and extending procurement diversity to other than cable platforms, two bones MMTC has to pick with the current Democratic-led commission.

The group wants the FCC to start close to home. "Choose leaders that are representative in gender, race, and ethnic diversity, and sensitive to the needs of all consumers," it told the new administration.

President-elect Donald Trump has a plan for his first 100 days, but MMTC wants him to add "creating a measurable plan that expands [FCC] staff diversity in key positions (e.g., bureau chiefs) and establish a new position of Chief Diversity Officer at the agency to ensure organizational accountability."

MMTC has sued the FCC over the procurement issue.

Congress in the 1992 Cable Act requires cable operators to encourage participation by minorities and women in all parts of their organizations. MMTC wanted that requirement to extend across the board and asked the FCC to make rule part of its quadrennial review. It didn't.

“MMTC has reached out to the Trump administration’s Telecom Transition Team to offer solutions to America’s communications policy challenges," said MMTC President Kim Keenan. "We welcome the opportunity to open a dialogue and collaborate with this administration to cultivate diversity and access to our nation’s most influential industries."

In its quadrennial review of media ownership rules, released last summer, the FCC did not extend the procurement diversity provisions of the 1992 Cable Act implementation to other media, and the FCC's Wireless Bureau has recently signaled to AT&T and Verizon that it thinks their DirecTV Now, AT&T Mobility and FreeBee free data plans may well violate net neutrality rules.

In a memorandum to the Trump team, MMTC made the following asks:

1. "Appoint and support FCC leadership that integrates diversity and inclusion into the regulatory rulemaking and public engagement processes.
2. "Preserve the FCC’s Lifeline program and improve it to enhance marketplace competition and increase the number of eligible program participants.
3. "Maintain free data programs that can preserve the affordability of mobile services, especially for economically vulnerable populations who are extremely sensitive to data costs.
4. "Provide for multilingual emergency information in all radio markets.
5. "Ban geographic redlining in broadband deployment to ensure ubiquitous access for all communities.
6. "Engage the multi-stakeholder process to enhance consumer privacy and counter 'applications redlining in the online marketplace.
7. "Work with State Public Utility Commissions and the FCC to ban predatory intrastate and interstate telephone rates charged to prisoners and their families.
8. "Engage the FCC and the Department of Labor to address employment discrimination in all communications industries and, especially, the dismal EEO record of the high tech industry.
9. "Extend FCC equal procurement opportunity enforcement to all regulatory platforms, and engage the General Accounting Office to ensure that federal agencies and departments consider diversity in procurement when choosing suppliers.

10. "Encourage the FCC to adopt an Overcoming Disadvantages Preference that would define eligible entities for competitive authorizations and thereby increase ownership diversity.
11. "Incentivize Secondary Market Transactions in commercial wireless spectrum by using tax incentives, auction bidding credits and other measures.

12. "Create a 'Glide Path' for the Short-Term Survival and Long-Term Humane Decommissioning of the AM Band in a Manner that Preserves Minority Ownership."

That is a tall order, but MMTC wants to make sure it gets its order in before the FCC's new leadership is in place.

"The new administration is in a position to make regulatory decisions that, by facilitating inclusion, will foster more competition and participation in the media, telecom, and technology industries," MMTC told the transition team. "This competition is good for business, good for consumers, and good for the nation’s economy."

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.