should be read in its entirety for an appreciation of all of
Commissioner Michael O'Rielly
's comments. Nevertheless, in the meantime, immediately below are selected excerpts of the conversation which provide an indication of Commissioner O'Rielly's perspectives on
cross-platform competition and wireless substitution, the global race to 5G and accelerating infrastructure deployment, spectrum policy and the c-band,
federal jurisdiction over the Internet and preempting state Net Neutrality laws, federal funding of broadband infrastructure overbuilding, and the Communications Act and FCC modernization.
If you would like to view a video of the conversation between Commissioner Michael O'Rielly and Tom Tauke, it is
Commissioner Michael O'Rielly:
Cross-Platform Competition and Wireless Substitution
How you define the marketplace is so important. In the video space, it's not just cable or broadcast or satellite offering video services. It's everyone fighting for the same marketplace. And you have to add in many of the new high-tech companies. The FAANGs [Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google] are fighting for those. It's who wants the eyeballs or the ears and the advertising dollars and everyone is fighting for that same space. And we have to treat that and recognize that. And the silos that we have lived with so long no longer apply, in my opinion. And we, as regulators, need to respect that. And we also have to take that message to the legislature and let them know that things need to change. And I have. I have talked openly about that, how Title VI no longer makes any sense, in my mind. And that would be where I would start if I were doing a rewrite of the Communications Act.
If you're asking about broadband in a broader sense and you're willing to concede, as I have, that mobile broadband certainly, or at least fixed wireless broadband is a competitor, then you can find a very competitive marketplace and a very dynamic marketplace. So to me, it's all about the definitions of how broadly the market is defined.
I do think many consumers believe that their mobile broadband experience is one that they not only use but, in many instances, favor over their wireline scenario. Yes, it doesn't meet all the same speed and latency capabilities as a wireline network. But it does meet the one thing that they really like, which is mobility.
[I]f you look at the experience from consumers and what they're willing to trade off, and they traded the quality of service on a mobile device for that mobility and the benefits that can come from it. So I believe the two are competitors, I believe they are substitutes and I've said as much. Not in all circumstances. But in many they are, and they should be recognized as such.
Global Race to 5G and Accelerating Infrastructure Deployment
I do know we're in a global race to 5G with a number of countries, China being one of them. It does so happen that that country has unlimited resources because they have a government system that takes all their money from consumers and all its people and puts it towards whatever the government determines to spend it on. And here, they have determined that cornering the market on 5G services going forward is both in their economic interests and also their national security interests. I have said the same thing about the United States. Having a strong 5G play is important for both the economic and national security of the United States. And so I think there is a global race. I think all of my fellow colleagues have agreed with that. There is a global race to 5G and I intend to make sure that there aren't barriers to U.S. providers offering 5G services to the American people through a private communications system versus a government system.
We need to do more on macro towers. We've got a couple of things. We've got twilight towers that have been sitting out there for way too long. These are towers where the question was ambiguous from the FCC. It was unclear to providers whether they could set up towers in certain locations and where the process was for getting them approved and now they're stuck in no man's land and they can't have anyone co-locate. That would be an enormous benefit. I think at the last count, there were like 4,000 of these towers. So this is something that has been important to me. There is more work that needs to be done in this space, and I think the Commission is up to the task to address the barriers to offering 5G services.
Spectrum Policy and the C-Band
[T]op of my priorities are going to be getting as much spectrum in the marketplace as I possibly can. I have been an active voice on a number of different things, including CBRS, the 3.5 to 3.7. I hope to make that operational as soon as possible. The General Authorized Access or the unlicensed piece, I'd like to see by June, I think I've talked about that. And then the licenses, the Priority Access Licenses, I'd like to see those auctioned as soon as possible. It looks like it is going to be early next year. But I'd like to believe that we could sneak it in, but we'll have to see. I've been active on the 3.7 to 4.2 gigahertz auction. I made a number of deals to add a millimeter wave auction spectrum with Tom Wheeler, and we have made a full plate there. And it's going to be C-band. I've been talking about C-band for quite a while. And I think people look at me and they say, "Oh, you've been pushing a particular side." And I say, "Well, I haven't endorsed anything." But I've advocated for speed on C-band.
I've spent two years convincing everyone that C-band was the right place to be for a 5G mid-band play and now everyone pretty much agrees. The debate is not: Should the C-band be reallocated? It's really: What are the parameters of that reallocation? How much spectrum? How fast? What's the mechanism? And so, from my perspective, I feel like I've won. It took me two years to get to here. But I've done the heavy lifting and now we've got the last couple of components to solve.
Many, many months ago, I outlined four points that I think are important that would be my measurement of whether success at the end stage was appropriate. I've said it's between 200 and 300. I would certainly like it to be 400 or 500. Five hundred seems a heavy, heavy lift. There are incumbents in the band that need to be taken care of. And I don't know that in the time frame we are going to get the full 500. I think there's a real possibility between 200 and 300 can be made available in a short time frame. And that's why I've said nice things about the CBA proposal because it has a speed component that is really important. It's not just about getting it to market and getting it into use. It's also we're competing globally. And this is spectrum that matches up nicely with other bands that are being used. And that means equipment harmonization, it means spectrum harmonization. There are efficiencies from having done so and doing so. So that's why I think it's the key mid-band play and that's why I've said nice things about it. But we have some particulars to decide. And how much spectrum is one of those as well.
So in the mid-band, if we're talking about the C-band downlink, the 3.7 to 4.2 gigahertz band, I think that's going to be licensed. And I think where the place to have a license, and I am a huge proponent to have a license, is going to be what we're able to do at 6 gigahertz. I don't believe you can do one without the other. Therefore, I think they go hand in glove. And that's where I have been able to work with the Chairman and he was gracious enough to move forward on a 6 gigahertz unlicensed plan. There are definitely some issues to work through there but I think they can be worked through, and that's where I think you get both in this scenario. It's having both as a package. Whether they move at the same date or not is for the Chairman to decide, beside me.
Federal Jurisdiction Over the Internet and Preempting State Net Neutrality Laws
I believe that the Internet is something that does not respect political boundaries. It is something that, by its very nature, is interstate. It's actually global. And you can't stop it because someone decided in 1800 or 1700 that this river was the reason why this state ended or that boundary is designed because of that tree that went there. The wireless spectrum does not respect those boundaries. It is interstate in terms of the other parts of the components. So I am fully comfortable defending my position and respecting state rights on so many different fronts. But here, where I believe that the Internet and the basis for future communications is interstate in nature, I am fully willing to preempt those bad actors and state and local governments that believe that they're going to step in and regulate interstate service.
I fully believe with preempting state and local governments. We can't have 50, we can't have 1,000 different statutes on net neutrality. It is an interstate service. This is something that is always lost in the conversation. States will say, as they've filed in many instances, "Oh, the FCC has abdicated its responsibility and left the playing field and therefore we can jump in." We did nothing of the sort. We did not abdicate the issue over to someone else. We said we're going to have a light-touch regulatory model. We still have some role over the equation. And we have an opportunity to come back if we necessarily need to, or have a conversation with Congress in terms of asking for more authority. That is something that is our purview. We are not giving it or ceding it to a state or local government to regulate it. And all the state statutes that are in the works today, we should be aggressively punting out of existence.
Federal Funding of Broadband Infrastructure Overbuilding
It's a huge problem… It's just our past experience. Many of us lived through the economic stimulus of the Obama administration and know that those dollars, in many instances, did go to overbuild. I also have visited where the government has invested dollars to overbuild. Arlington, Virginia, has built a middle mile network that has no customers or very few. I was in Kentucky and they have a middle mile network that has very little, when the private sector had a full-blown network that they would have been happy to offer for service for anchor institutions. Everyone wants to figure out, how do we do anchor institutions? Well, we have private sector providers that want to offer those because they see the benefit of serving those institutions. But we have people who are building special networks rather than using private providers today and that's incredibly problematic. We only have so many dollars. I've got 10 bucks. I'm trying to figure out, how do I stretch that as far as possible to get everyone to have a basic level of service? If we're spending six of those dollars on places that already have service and saying, well, it would be better if they had two or three or four or five competitors in that area, it sure would. And it would be great if everyone had a gig to their home or a gig to the igloo or a gig to wherever they want. That would be great. But it's not in the cards right now and it's not the dollars that we're able to spend. And we're able to stretch them only so far. So I really care about that person, that location that doesn't have service today.
The Communications Act and FCC Modernization
I fully believe the statute needs to be rewritten and our structure internally at the Commission needs to change to modernize with the current times.
A PDF of the complete O'Rielly-Tauke Conversation transcript is