At a recent hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the top Republican, the Texas Senator went after the possibility that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides foundation for legal claims of disparate impact against telecommunications companies whose decisions might leave certain communities less well served compared to other areas.
That framework would be implemented in some form in the context of an attempt to address digital discrimination, as it’s known. Cruz took grave issue with the allegedly serious possibility that such disputes could be brought without racist intent even being present, instead focusing just on outcomes. The problem, as one of those testifying tried to explain, was that the FCC hasn’t even finalized its approach to implementing what’s essentially its mandate of addressing disparate impacts in various communities from whatever these companies do.
“If a broadband provider doesn’t build out Cadillac-level service to a neighborhood, the FCC and its trial lawyer friends could swoop in and sue, saddling providers with costly litigation, driving up the cost of broadband for all consumers, and sullying the reputation of these companies,” Cruz claimed. The Texas Republican claimed that this — well, his description of events, at least — was at odds with standards that have been established by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The digital discrimination item is being considered by the FCC right now,” Geoffrey Starks told the Senator. “The record is being developed right now. One of the open questions is very much, what is the enforcement capacity that the FCC is going to take under this item? We will closely follow the law, but this is very much under consideration right now.”
Cruz subsequently pretended as though the nominee had actually provided an enthusiastic endorsement to the concept of bringing litigation over potentially disparate outcomes between various communities without necessarily proving there to have been discriminatory intent. Starks reiterated his earlier comments, and the Texan moved on. Starks was seeking a reappointment to serve on that federal commission, while a couple others of those present were new. Check it all out below: