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San Jose Mayor Exits FCC Broadband Council to Protest Focus on ‘Industry Interests’

Sam Liccardo
Tony Avelar/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — The mayor of San Jose resigned from an FCC committee tasked with expanding access to broadband, arguing that the focus of the group “plainly prioritized industry interests.”

The Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee has been a key part of FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s priority of closing the so-called “digital divide,” particularly when it comes to bringing high-speed internet service to rural and low-income areas.

Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, wrote in a letter that “after nine months of deliberation, negotiation, and discussion, we’ve made no progress toward a single proposal that will actually further the goal of equitable broadband deployment.” He said that “not a single one of the draft recommendations attempts to meaningfully identify any new or significant resources to promote digital inclusion.” Axios first reported on his resignation.

Liccardo said that the panel was heavily weighted toward the interests of internet service providers, including telecom companies.

Pai defended the work of the committee. In a statement, he said that it has “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.”

The FCC chairman has long argued that unnecessary regulation was hindering the build out of broadband and the upgrade in existing infrastructure. It was a reason he gave for the repeal of most of the FCC’s net neutrality rules last month.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said in a statement that “state and local leaders around the nation have a vital role to play in the deployment of broadband.” She added that it was “deeply disappointing to me that it has reached the point that San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo felt compelled to resign. Disregarding an elected official representing one of the largest U.S. cities in the nation is unconscionable.”