President Trump has nominated Brendan Carr to fill the final Republican slot at the FCC

President Trump has nominated Brendan Carr to fill the final Republican slot at the FCC

By Tony Romm

U.S. President Donald Trump has named his pick to fill the final open Republican position at the Federal Communications Commission: It’s Brendan Carr, a former telecom lawyer who currently serves as the agency’s general counsel.

Carr’s nomination — confirmed to Recode on Wednesday by two sources, then the White House — gives the FCC’s current chairman, Ajit Pai, a reliable political ally as he continues his push to deregulate the telecom industry, including recent efforts to scrap the government’s existing net neutrality rules.

Carr joined the FCC as an attorney adviser in 2012, and he became a top legal adviser to then-commissioner Pai in 2014. Once Democrats lost the White House — and thus no longer controlled the FCC — Pai became chairman and, in January, he named Carr as acting general counsel of the agency.

Before arriving in government, Carr represented some of the companies he may soon regulate. For years, he served as a lawyer at Wiley Rein, one of the top telecom-focused law firms in Washington, D.C., and he aided AT&T, Verizon and their main trade associations, USTelecom and the wireless-focused lobbying group, CTIA.

Carr must still survive a grilling by lawmakers, followed by a vote in the Senate. But his already-high prospects for confirmation are aided by the fact that there is also an open Democratic slot at the FCC. Typically, lawmakers pair nominees from both parties together, and vote on them as a pack.

Earlier this month, Trump nominated Jessica Rosenworcel, who had served as a Democratic commissioner at the FCC until the end of 2016. The move drew the support of the party’s lawmakers, who merely ran out of time to vote on her renomination before her term expired.

If confirmed, Carr and Rosenworcel would restore the FCC to its full strength of five members: Pai, the chairman, plus Michael O’Rielly, a Republican commissioner, and Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat whose term is soon expiring.

Mediacom Lights up Gigabit Service in Indiana

by: Daniel Frankel

Mediacom continued its quest to become the first U.S. cable operator to convert its HFC-based network entirely to DOCSIS 3.1 by the end of 2017, setting up 1 Gbps services in its 20-county Indiana footprint. Mediacom isn’t the first operator to reach Indiana with DOCSIS 3.1-powered 1-gig services-Comcast announced in late-May that it’s $140-a-month DOCSIS 3.1 product was available in the state. However, the state’s dominant MSO still isn’t advertising its 1-gig product in key areas like Indianapolis.

Mediacom representatives didn’t immediately respond to inquiries on pricing for their 1-gig offering, but the operator has also priced its services at $140 a month in markets in which it has previously deployed DOCSIS 3.1

“Mediacom has invested over $8 billion of private capital in its national network to ensure that the hardworking people living in America’s smaller cities and towns can access world-class communications services,” said Todd Curtis, group VP of Mediacom’s Lincoln Region, in a statement. “We want the people and businesses of Indiana to succeed, and that is why we are thrilled to be able to offer ultrafast gigabit internet services across the entirety of our Hoosier State service territory.”

“In today’s global economy, access to high-quality, high-speed broadband is critical to driving local economic growth,” added Indiana Rep. Dave Ober, chair of the House Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications, also speaking in Mediacom’s press release. “Thanks to Mediacom’s efforts to make gigabit broadband available in the smaller rural markets it serves, communities across northern Indiana will have access to the same or better broadband speeds as America’s largest cities.”

Comcast and Charter reportedly talking with Sprint to offer wireless service

By Jacob Kastrenakes

Sprint’s merger talks with T-Mobile are temporarily on hold while the carrier mulls over a number of potential deals with the United States’ two biggest cable companies, Comcast and Charter, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The trio of companies have reportedly agreed to a two-month exclusivity period on cutting a deal. Comcast and Charter appear to be interested in reselling Sprint’s wireless service under their own name. That’s something Comcast has already been doing with Verizon, and it could use Sprint’s network to improve coverage.

Such a deal would likely involve the two cable companies making an investment in Sprint, which the carrier would then use to build out its network, generally known to be the worst of the four major phone service providers. The Journal also reports that Comcast and Charter could make a bid to acquire Sprint outright, but it said the outcome was seen as less likely.

Though they’re usually an unlikely pairing, Comcast and Charter agreed in May to team up when making deals around wireless coverage for a full year. For the most part, both companies have been slowly losing TV subscribers year after year as customers shift over to online services. They see phone service as a new offering that could help to restore growth and lock in subscribers.

Comcast started launching its Xfinity Mobile phone service last month. The service uses Verizon’s network for mobile data, but it also relies on the 16 million Wi-Fi hot spots Comcast has placed throughout its wired coverage area. Because it has to pay Verizon for all data usage, Comcast tries to offload as much as possible to its Wi-Fi network. Bringing Sprint into the equation could provide it with a better deal on data and expand coverage to new areas.

Charter doesn’t have a wireless phone offering yet, but the company’s CEO indicated last year that it has every intention of launching one. Like Comcast, Charter also has a deal with Verizon to use the carrier’s network. So by teaming up, the two cable providers can get a better deal for their own wireless networks, while very likely continuing their practice of never actually competing with one another by only offering service in areas that they already have wired coverage.

None of this means that Sprint’s talks with T-Mobile are done for. Though Comcast and Charter seem to have teamed up for the express purpose of talks like this, the Journal doesn’t say there’s a clear indication that a deal will be made. And even if they do make an investment in Sprint, that still doesn’t mean Sprint won’t ultimately be bought up by T-Mobile, which has been eyeing it for months.