Adonis Hoffman

The pricey path to 5G

On Dec. 8, the Federal Communications Commission will begin selling off another swath of wireless spectrum to accelerate the country’s march toward the full promise of 5G. In an auction projected to yield as much as $50 billion to the U.S. Government, 57 companies have qualified for the opportunity to bid on 5,684 spectrum licenses to serve 406 partial economic areas — or markets — throughout the US. There’s gold in those 5G airwaves. The path to profit and preeminence depends almost entirely on how much spectrum the companies can garner from the US government.

Under new Trump chairman, FCC means business

[Commentary] As much as the Tom Wheeler Federal Communications Commission was known for its pro-consumer bias, the Ajit Pai FCC will become known for its pro-business bent. It is not that consumers will be forgotten; it is that Chairman Pai is an unabashed free-market trumpeter and proponent of limited federal government. As such, he is expected to encourage the private sector not only to pull its weight on competition, but also on consumer protection.

In opinion after opinion, Pai maintains that the key challenge for businesses — both large and small —is complying with an overweight regulatory regime. This philosophy, articulated often and eloquently by Pai, sits foursquare with the Trump doctrine and will guide Pai's actions, and most importantly, communications policy, for the foreseeable future.

[Adonis Hoffman is chairman of Business in the Public Interest and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. He served from 2013 to 2015 as chief of staff and senior legal advisor to a FCC commissioner.]

Humble Pai one of the best-prepared FCC chairs in history

[Commentary] Incoming Federal Communications Commissioner Chair Ajit Pai will rise to the top spot as one of the best prepared and best-liked commissioners in FCC history. Pai's public service includes positions as FCC deputy general counsel, senior positions at the Justice Department, and deputy chief counsel at the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the private sector, Pai was an attorney at a high-powered Washington law firm and appointed associate general counsel at Verizon communications.

Now Pai stands on the doorstep of his biggest role ever: FCC chairman. It is a role for which he has been preparing for over a decade, and a role for which he is imminently qualified. Pai has taken the time to master the arcane statutory and regulatory grist that drives the mill at the FCC.

[Adonis Hoffman is chairman of Business in the Public Interest and adjunct professor of Communication, Culture & Technology at Georgetown University. He is a former chief of staff and senior legal adviser for an FCC commissioner.]

What Trump means for telecom, media and technology

[Commentary] Elections have consequences. And nowhere are the consequences more monumental than in the telecommunication, media and technology (TMT) sector, where the erstwhile status quo stands to be upended soon. Hazarding an early guess on the "Trump doctrine," we should expect a more benign, pro-business approach to communications regulation as it affects TMT.

Under Trump, size will not matter: Big corporations are not seen as inherently bad or suspect, despite candidate Trump's shoot-from-the-hip reactions to questions on mergers during the campaign.

Communications Act rewrite and FCC jurisdiction: The Communications Act of 1996 is the statutory beacon for federal policy in the media and communications space. As its title suggests, however, the Act is 20 years old, and is in desperate need of revision, if not reform altogether.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA): The Obama Federal Communications Commission adopted one of the most controversial anti-business rulings in decades, as it reinterpreted the TCPA. Seen by many companies as a boon for class action litigants, the TCPA imposed costly restrictions on the ability of businesses to communicate with their customers with auto dialer technology. Both Republican FCC Commissioners — Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly — have been opposed to the FCC's interpretation of the TCPA and have delineated its detrimental effect on business. In a Trump Administration, their view will prevail, and the current TCPA ruling is likely be reversed.

[Adonis Hoffman is chairman of Business in the Public Interest and adjunct professor at Georgetown University]

Chairman Wheeler’s Shell Game With Set-Top Box Rules

[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has served up a “compromise” rule on set-top boxes. After the original proposal was met with overwhelming opposition, Chairman Wheeler retreated and reconfigured a new version of the same old rule. Much like the dealer in three-card monte, Chairman Wheeler has changed the game to appear responsive to the players when, in fact, he still holds the “money card.” It seems Chairman Wheeler has the same problem as President Barack Obama when presented a choice to sacrifice existing industries with proven track records in favor of newer, sexier and techier entrants. Broadcasters, cable and telecommunication companies have been on the losing end of many of Chairman Wheeler’s most significant rules, as opposed to tech. And this has led to criticism of an anti-business — or at least anti-incumbent — bias.

When it comes to the rules on set-top boxes, the growing chorus of content creators, distributors, programmers, advertisers, manufacturers, copyright and privacy advocates deserve a straight answer responsive to their demonstrably legitimate concerns. The Chairman has all the cards in hand to toss out a compromise that will allow every player in the set-top game to walk away from the table a winner.

[Adonis Hoffman is chairman of Business in the Public Interest and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. He is the former chief of staff and senior legal advisor to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.]