Ajit Pai’s Tech Agenda Running Into Some Obstacles— Namely, Local Republican Officials

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has won mad props from conservatives interested in tech policy for a slew of free-market, limited government friendly positions he’s taken on a bunch of issues (most notably, net neutrality).

But about his plans for speeding up the deployment of 5G wireless, it looks like Pai is encountering some opposition—and this time, it’s not coming from the Free Presses of the world.

It turns out that it’s local, elected Republicans as represented by the Forum for Community Leaders, the policy wing of the Community Leaders of America (that’s kind of like their version of the NRSC, I suppose). They are making a stink about an FCC rulemaking that would override local regulations relating to permitting, telephone poles, public right of way issues and that kind of thing.

They think this rulemaking is undercutting their ability to serve their constituents and make appropriate decisions given the requirements of their communities. They believe that Pai is running afoul of federalism, or “decisions made closest to home are best” principles.

One thing that’s interesting here is that the letter is apparently available through the FCC, but is marked “Confidential, Not For Public Inspection.” Some FCC observers have homed in on it since the Senate Commerce Committee is having a hearing about broadband tomorrow. So, intended to be confidential or not, attention is being drawn to this.

Broadband deployment isn’t a particularly sexy topic, but it’s an important one that affects everyone with a cell phone. That means federalist concerns or no federalist concerns, at least some conservatives are probably going to side with Pai. Even if the local elected Rs are right in their contention that “[this proceeding] represents the first step down a path that could lead to the trampling of legitimate local rights and prerogatives based on questionable facts and a skewed framing of the relevant law.”

Of course, plenty of conservatives will be eager to maintain local rights and prerogatives because, with President Basement-Level Approval Ratings in office, it’s possible we’re going to be dealing with President Elizabeth Warren and the most heinous FCC Chair ever in a few years. At that point, reserving as much local control in as many areas of tech policy as possible will seem necessary.

In any event, this is just evidence that even in the driest and most arcane areas, there’s always intrigue to be found.