Will lawmakers pass an infrastructure bill in the limited time left in this session of Congress? If so, how much would be devoted to wireless infrastructure needs? Those are some of the questions Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein asked Blair Levin Tuesday in a members-only webinar.
Levin is the former chief of staff for FCC Chairman Reed Hunt. Levin, now an equity analyst at New Street Research, discussed with Adelstein his view of the election’s outcome on Congress, the Administration, the FCC and the wireless infrastructure industry.
Adelstein noted the House passed a multi-million infrastructure package this year, but he said the future control of the Senate is unknown. He asked Levin about the bill’s potential outcomes. Levin believes it’s possible lawmakers would pass a short-term stimulus package by year-end. However he doesn’t believe anything in that legislation would include funds for wireless infrastructure.
Much depends on the outcome of the Georgia Senate run-offs. “If the Democrats take the Senate there will be an infrastructure bill,” Levin predicted. However, “If the GOP controls the Senate that’s not guaranteed, he believes.
Both Levin and Adelstein agree rural broadband deployment has bi-partisan appeal. Including funding language in an infrastructure package will be “tough” Levin predicts because it will compete with roads, bridges, ports and labor-related priorities.
Concerning workforce development, Levin said: “Joe [Biden] wants to be the President who brought back a lot of jobs.” He doesn’t believe there’s partisan disagreement about 5G. “If you can marry both of those, that’s a compelling picture to people I know working for the Biden team,” said Levin.
Finally, Adelstein asked Levin about the prospects for the Senate confirming current President Trump’s pick for the FCC, Nathan Simington. Levin said the “more obvious deal” between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Biden would be to remain with the tradition of pairing one GOP pick for the FCC with a Democratic pick and pairing their nominations and confirmation hearings together.
He believes former Acting FCC Chairwoman and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was “very effective.” While she could return as chair, he believes she’s “becoming comfortable” with her current work. That leaves the Senior Democrat at the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel. “If Clyburn doesn’t want the position, I think Jessica becomes the leading candidate,” said Levin. “She knows the job and she doesn’t need a confirmation hearing.”
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
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