In an interview, prior to leaving the FCC, former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn took aim at the agency where she worked for nearly nine years. Her biggest criticism was that it had abandoned its mission to protect consumers’ speech and privacy. Clyburn made an interesting characterization. She equated the FCC’s mission to the Starfleet Prime Directive, indicating that the agency’s top priority is to ensure “affordable, efficient, and effective” access to communications. She notes that this directive has been deserted under the new administration, and instead, working to advance the causes of “last mile monopolies”. I feel like I’ve been saying this for a while now. I mean, Ajit Pai is kind of transparent in this regard.
In an interview with Ars Technica, Clyburn indicated that she never shied away from her role as a government regulator. In fact, she embraced it, especially when it came to Internet Service Providers. Clyburn also believes that in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need regulation. And she’s right. But she also notes that we don’t live in an ideal world, which is why agencies like the FCC were constructed.
Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, was Donald Trump’s pick to lead the agency, and like I said, he’s taken an aggressive stance against regulation of any kind. He’s kind of adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards broadband rules. Which is why we are in this weird grey area when it comes to the Internet. But a free market approach to broadband isn’t likely the answer. The FCC’s own data shows that approximately 40% of Americans only have one option when it comes to broadband service. Meaning, they’re screwed if the FCC takes away the net neutrality rules.
Without practical regulation to restrain companies like Comcast, the industry is free to do whatever they want, including price gouging – which is a concept that Comcast is very familiar with. Not only that, but they can throttle and censor online content and services. This is something that major ISP’s are already known to do, despite all the talk from Pai regarding “internet freedom” and “light touch” regulation.
If you don’t regulate appropriately, things go too far one way or the other, and we either have prices that are too high or an insufficient amount of resources or applications or services to meet the needs of Americans.
In regards to what she will do after she leaves the FCC, she didn’t really know, but she said that she would continue “to be a voice for the voiceless”. She also stated:
I hope to be able to be an advocate for those who may not have gotten the type of attention that I believe they deserve at the agency.
What does all that mean, exactly? Well, if she’s trying to be a voice for those who don’t have it, then she won’t get anywhere with the Trump administration. The Trump administration only cares about the monopolies and the big business opportunities. Clyburn wants to help people, rather than take more away from them. But unfortunately she is no longer with the FCC, so her talents and her passion are best served elsewhere.