VTel Backs Up Pai Deregulatory Defense to Hill

It was a case of one chairman backing up another.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai got some fan mail, once removed, and an assist from a small telecom in responding to Hill queries about the impact of his broadband deregulatory policies.

That is according to a letter from VTel chairman Michel Guite to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a copy of which was provided to B&C/Multichannel News by Pai's office.

At a recent Hill hearing on broadband, Guité said, Leahy wanted Pai to quantify that impact. Pai had invoked VTel as an example of the fruits of FCC's pro-investment and deployment broadband approach.

Guité reminded Leahy that VTel was the first company to provide internet access in Vermont and said it was the first to build a 100% 4G LTE wireless broadband network.

He said Pai's policies, which include eliminating network neutrality rules and easing tower siting, created a "positive regulatory climate" for investment.

Guité said that tower-siting deregulation had encouraged it to commit to building a new tower to improve service to Whitingham, Vt., and to light up three new 500 Mbps microwave paths to boost backhaul to Wardsboro and Dover.

Guité also said that his company planned to be a bidder in the FCC's upcoming CAF II reverse auction to help extend its network reach. 

He also praised Pai's rollback of his predecessor's business data services revamp and IP transition framework, saying those had frustrated deployment by diverting investment dollars to lawyers and compliance personnel.

Leahy had asked for examples of rural broadband investment Pai's policies had facilitated. 

Guité said that, "just days ago," VTel had committed $4 million to buy some Ericsson equipment and services to upgrade its plant to allow for voice roaming and Wi-Fi calling and to begin rolling out faster broadband on the way to 5G, its biggest investment since it got Obama-era broadband stimulus money.

He also said he would be glad to come to Washington any time to talk to more about why the FCC's policies had significantly spurred VTE's optimism about the future. 

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.