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Feds, Telecom Industry, Mayors Pledge Cooperation on Building Smart Cities

Charter Communications here in D.C. held a fascinating policy event this morning, “Partnering with Communities Today to Build the Smart Cities of Tomorrow.” The event featured remarks by Commissioner Michael O’Rielly of the Federal Communications Commission and Stephen Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, South Carolina and President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Commissioner O’Rielly and Mayor Benjamin were followed by a panel discussion of telecom experts, including our old pal Brent Skorup of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

O’Rielly’s remarks emphasized that technology companies and consumers—not government planners—are going to be leading the industry developments that bring us all the network services of tomorrow. He emphasized the FCC’s role in eliminating government-imposed barriers rather than imposing prescriptive regulations:

…the FCC has been centered on ensuring that the proper regulatory framework exists for providers to offer services and expand infrastructure deployments to meet consumer demand. In particular, the Commission has completed numerous items to remove state and local barriers to the deployment of both wired and wireless broadband networks. We have also worked to remove outdated pricing rules, regulatory restrictions that no longer make any sense, and mission creep by overaggressive regulatory agencies. And, I’ve been outspoken on the need to reconsider the existing fundamental obligations imposed on cable companies.

Mayor Benjamin, while acknowledging that city governments have had significant disagreements with the FCC recently over issues like licensing 5G deployment, gave encouraging remarks about how local leaders can work with both the FCC and the telecom industry going forward. All relevant parties will need to approach these changes with such a spirit of practical collaboration in order to realize the promise of new network technologies that promise to bring huge benefits to city residents as both consumers and taxpayers.

Speaking on behalf of his fellow elected leaders in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Benjamin said:

We are strong advocates of public-private partnerships. We are strong advocates of working together, to make sure that our citizens can indeed live up to their God-given potential in our cities. We recognize that we have to continue to, just as Charter has, work hard to make broadband more accessible and make opportunities to access the Internet ubiquitous across our country. We recognize that 5G is coming, and we must all be ready though strong public-private partnerships to enable that to happen. We know that you all in this room, and the people you represent, will spend hundreds of billions of dollars over the next several years. These are not inconsequential sums. We want to make sure that we partner with you to make it a reality.

Watch the full event on Charter’s Facebook page here.

In related news, CEI recently filed an appeal in federal court challenging the conditions that the FCC, in 2016, applied to the merger of Charter, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks:

…the FCC approved the companies’ applications, but unlawfully imposed various conditions the agency claimed were necessary to “yield net public interest benefits.” Then-Commissioner Ajit Pai, who has since been elevated to FCC Chairman, issued a dissent describing the conditions imposed as politically-motivated “extortion” and warned the decision failed to explain how the conditions would address any potential harm caused by the license transfers.

Read the filing here.