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O'Rielly Sees Title II Rollback, Hopes to Work with Rosenworcel on 5.9 GHz

To change his mind on the need for a rollback of FCC Communications Act Title II regulation of the internet, Commissioner Mike O'Rielly would need to see evidence of real, not hypothetical, harm to consumers, substantive data evincing the need, or a showing of precedential or statutory obligations, he said in an interview on C-SPAN's The Communicators set to be televised starting Saturday. Once the agency is done later this month with receiving comments (see 1708170039) on the proposed rollback, "I'll wait to see if anyone makes a compelling case," he said.

With the agency now at full strength (see 1708110053), "We will see how the chairman sets up the agenda for the next couple months," O'Rielly said, saying spectrum and infrastructure issues are "high on our priority list." He said having Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr confirmed brings new voices to the agency, while procedurally it brings into play the must-vote calendar -- in which three commissioners voting for an item starts a clock for the other two disposing of the time. He said Carr and Rosenworcel, due to their FCC experience, already are having meetings and hiring staff. "When I came to the commission, it took me a little bit longer," he said. O'Rielly said there's less tension among commissioners than under the previous administration: "We've had a great run."

O'Rielly opened the door to continuing jointly advocating with Rosenworcel on spectrum issues such as allowing unlicensed use of the 5.9 GHz band alongside auto safety systems -- an issue the two pushed during her previous time as a commissioner (see 1601120055).

He hopes new media ownership rules will come up as an agenda item, given the changing landscape. He said his own definition of the media market "is probably broader than some." He said he wouldn't go so far as to advocate outright elimination of all media ownership rules: "You wouldn't want every component to be owned [by one entity] within a local market."

Asked about legislative recommendations, O'Rielly largely demurred, saying he personally wouldn't want to see some rules, such as governing paid prioritization, or its general conduct standard, codified in legislation. He said any need for a Cable Act or Telecom Act update "is something for Congress to decide," though he said it was disappointing that streamlined processes on international investment weren't codified last session.

He said unfilled openings at NTIA and the State Department have made it difficult to formulate international policy and to present "a unified front" when approaching other nations. David Redl's nomination for NTIA administrator remains stalled (see 1708160034).

Asked about the likelihood of new rules on mobile phone use on airplanes, O'Rielly said both the FCC and Congress are looking at the issue and there's "probably universal agreement" that allowing voice service on planes wouldn't be appropriate but there could be opportunities for additional data use in flight.