Trump’s FCC choice

EisenachJeff Eisenach, Trump’s comms guy, is a first-rate economist. He holds very strong “free market,” “deregulatory” opinions, presumably a requirement for Trump. Many, including the Times, suggest he is inspired by the money he has taken from telcos. I disagree; he has held similar positions for decades and has long been a political activist. “Jeff Eisenach is certainly as smart and wonky as they come,” Harold Feld wrote.

Eisenach’s PFF colleagues, Scott Wallsten and Ray Gifford, would be better choices for FCC Chair than Jeff or either of the Republican Commissioners. Trump has enough battles to fight without having combat at the FCC. Eisenach presents such certainty in his positions he will be a lightning rod for criticism. Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, along with Democrat Wheeler, are part of what they agree is the most contentious FCC in many years; the job calls for a diplomat, especially today. Pai is a very skilled lawyer, often making cogent arguments on difficult issues of law. 

Unfortunately, both Pai and O’Rielly concentrate too much on legal theory while neglecting what’s going on in the industry.

For example, AT&T said that the DirecTV merger world result in 12M more homes connected to fiber and about as many in rural areas being offered wireless broadband. This was typical lobbyist nonsense. Well before the DirecTV merger, AT&T’s CEO had told Wall Street that fiber costs had come down so much they were going to do the fiber, as I reported. T had also told the street they would use the LTE network for wireless broadband in rural areas. The two Republicans cited these false claims in their arguments for the merger.

Wallsten, a friend, is the best economist working in this field in D.C., heavily empirical. He’s immersed himself in the data for more than a decade, including as chief economist of the Broadband Plan. His work at PFF makes him acceptable to conservatives while the quality of his research earns respect from all. He relies a bit much on his Stanford training in econometrics; in telecom, we rarely have sufficiently robust data sets to eliminate confounding variables.

Gifford, a lawyer who once headed PFF, is gracious and thoughtful. He was a leader of the Federalist Society, which promoted a conservative judiciary. The Federalists were influential in Republican Supreme Court picks.


Christopher Yoo, a Law Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is the leading Conservative opponent of Net Neutrality and government action. He’s extremely articulate and I believe an honest scholar, well-liked by both peers and opponents. I sent over data refuting a major point in a presentation. He changed it promptly. He’s aiming at “evidence-based” analysis, as I have been.


Jeff is much better informed than most in D.C. On a panel once, we kept looking at each other in astonishment, when the other speakers made errors of fact. (One was progressive, one conservative.) I almost laughed when one of the usual DC talking heads spoke of lower broadband prices in the U.S. than in Europe. Prices in the U.S. and Canada are typically 30-80% higher than our peers across the Atlantic.


My bias is progressive, making me a strong opponent of the policies of Trump and his early appointees. Repeat: I am not objective here. It’s my job to overcome my bias and get as close to the truth as I can.


I can respect people like this despite believing the data contradicts some of their conclusions, just as I can respect people of wildly contradictory religions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top