San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has now quit the Federal Communications Commission advisory panel – specifically the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC). Liccardo claims that the way the panel has been set up does not adequately take dissenting input seriously, citing favoritism among FCC committee members for committee participants either representing or with ties to telecoms and ISPs. As a result of that, his presence on the BDAC serves little or no purpose.
For the FCC's part, already controversial chairman Ajit Pai first established the BDAC in 2017 as a committee to generate recommendations. Pai has said that the committee will play an important role in getting high-speed access to areas of the country that are generally left out of the rapid advance of the industry. The BDAC and its 101 participants are tasked to advise the FCC on how to proceed in generating laws to help that expansion happen for those in rural or impoverished areas. Unfortunately, according to the source, Liccardo says that the drafted recommendations of the BDAC will effectively take power away from individual cities with regard to infrastructure management. To that point, the mayor claims recommendations have proposed for laws that would allow states to bypass city decisions regarding wireless broadband infrastructure. Allowing states to take control over that infrastructure would, he says, allow the telecommunications industry more influence in those decisions than if the decisions were left to the cities themselves. Meanwhile, in his resignation letter, Liccardo states that the "industry-heavy makeup" of the BDAC ensures that any recommendations favor those kinds of laws. In fact, he says, the current makeup of the BDAC makes it improbable, if not completely impossible, for non-industry participants in the panel to have any impact on the recommendations.
Liccardo, who previously held the vice chair position in a unit of the BDAC focusing on laws municipalities could use to generate greater deployment of broadband, has publicly stated that there is no political ambition behind his decision to leave the panel. However, it may be worth noting that the stance is also prominently held among his Democratic contemporaries. Whether or not his motivations are political may be debatable, but his reasoning does match up fairly well with the views that have already been expressed by many of the tech industry's leaders. As such, it may be difficult to dismiss his allegations or resignation outright as being purely political. With that said, it's also difficult to know whether Liccardo's decision will have any impact on the BDAC or tech industry – or whether it will simply remain a symbolic gesture.