In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory Tuesday in the 2016 presidential election, telecommunications industry executives began offering their expectations for a Trump administration. Some observers pointed to Trump’s campaign pledge to pursue wide-reaching improvements to critical infrastructure, which are hoped to include the nation’s broadband networks. At the same time, analysts and others anticipated that an FCC under Republican leadership would pursue a lighter regulatory touch and perhaps roll back some of the decisions of the Tom Wheeler-led FCC, which include the reclassification of broadband Internet access as a Title II telecommunications service.
While Mr. Trump has offered few details on his telecommunications agenda, he has signaled his support for broadband with talk of a $1 trillion infrastructure investment package, which it is hoped would include improvements to the nation’s telecommunications networks. Although the FCC is expected to adopt a more relaxed approach to regulation during the upcoming Trump presidency, Trump has also said that his administration would take steps to block high-profile telecommunications industry mergers, which Trump has suggested concentrate too much power in the hands of too few.
As is customary in times of an Executive Branch change, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is anticipated by industry observers to step down on or before Mr. Trump’s January 20 inauguration, at which time an interim FCC chairman would be appointed to lead the agency, pending Senate confirmation of a new Republican chairman to be nominated by Trump. Observers also noted that FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat whose May 2015 re-nomination for a second FCC term remains in limbo, may be forced to leave the agency at the end of the current Congressional term, as members of the Republican-controlled Senate are now considered unlikely to move her nomination to a vote.
Expressing his hope that the new president and the Republican-led Congress can “work together to prepare our country to compete and grow in the 21st century economy,” Verizon Communications Chairman Lowell McAdam urged putting the nation first “by building and rebuilding infrastructure and promoting the deployment of a digital superhighway to support game-changing innovation.” Along the same vein, Shirley Bloomfield, the CEO of rural association NTCA, told reporters, “we look forward to working with the Trump administration and Congress to harness the enthusiasm and engagement of the rural voters who cast votes in this election and build upon past successes to find innovative solutions to our nation’s broadband challenges.” As a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters said “we look forward to participating in a constructive and robust discussion about policies that will continue to make America a global technology and entertainment leader,” Walter McCormick, the president of the U.S. Telecom Association, declared that his organization looked forward to working with Trump and his administration to advance Trump’s commitment to infrastructure investment.