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San Jose mayor quits FCC advisory committee

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo surrounded by people
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo resigned today from a panel that advises the Federal Communications Commission on broadband deployment, alleging that the committee is dealing internet service providers "a very favorable hand” of policy recommendations.

Why it matters: The Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee is a key element of Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s priority of making sure broadband internet reaches all Americans.

What he’s saying:

  • "It has become abundantly clear that despite the good intentions of several participants, the industry-heavy makeup of BDAC will simply relegate the body to being a vehicle for advancing the interests of the telecommunications industry over those of the public,” said Liccardo, a Democrat, in his resignation letter.
  • He told Axios that he thought that the committee’s draft recommendations were trying to “steamroll cities” in favor of industry access to infrastructure. He pointed to a draft model law that would give states power over permitting for wireless broadband infrastructure at the expense, Liccardo says, of cities’ interests.
  • "It’s obvious that this body is going to deliver to the industry what the industry wants,” Liccardo said.

The details:

  • Pai established the BDAC last year to develop recommendations for how the FCC could encourage broadband adoption.
  • "I’ve long said that every American who wants to participate in the digital economy should be able to do so," Pai said at the start of a two-day meeting of the committee yesterday. "And the plain reality is that if you live in rural America, you are much less likely to have high-speed Internet access than if you live in a city.  If you live in a low-income neighborhood, you are less likely to have high-speed Internet access than if you live in a wealthier area."
  • Liccardo was the vice chair of a working group meant to develop model laws that municipalities could use spur broadband deployment.

In a statement, Pai said that the "Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee and its working groups have brought together 101 participants from a range of perspectives to recommend strategies to promote better, faster, and cheaper broadband. Bridging the digital divide continues to be my top priority, and I look forward to continuing to work with the BDAC and many others to remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment and to extend digital opportunity to all Americans."

Don’t forget: It could be politically advantageous for a Democrat like Liccardo — who is running for re-election — to resign from the panel. Pai has become a more high-profile target from criticism from the left since the panel was formed last year. Liccardo said politics didn't play a role in his decision to resign.