David Morken, a co-founder of Bandwidth.com and Republic Wireless which recently spun out from Bandwidth, is the newest member of the FCC transition team selected by the incoming Trump administration. And he steps into a hot debate: Whether to repeal “net neutrality.”
Politico and Fortune reported late last week that Morken, who told the Wall Street Journal that he is a Republican, was the fourth member named.
It’s expected that a new FCC member to be appointed by President-elect Donald Trump will join with two Republican incumbents on the five-member commission to throw out net neutrality. FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has already said he plans to resign. Wheeler led FCC efforts to impose net neutrality, which advocates say is resigned to assure equitable access to content providers across Internet networks.
However, where Morken stands on the issue is not clear.
As Fortune pointed out: “[U]nlike previous Trump FCC transition picks, Morken has no obvious and widespread record of speaking out against the agency’s moves in 2015 to protect competition on the Internet through net neutrality rules. Companies like AT&T and Verizon have complained that the rules over-regulate the industry and deter investment in networks.”
As co-founder of startups, Morken’s career has focused on finding ways to upend the status quo and to take on big providers. Republic, for example, emerged as a pioneer in WiFi calling and offers cheaper calling plans compared to traditional carriers.
And the dichotomy of his startup past/FCC role is something he pointed out in an interview with The Wll Street Journal shortly after Bandwidth disclosed the spin-off of Republic.
“Traditional Republican telecom policy has favored incumbents who are heavily engaged in regulatory capture over innovators like us,” Morken said.
The FCC transition role could certainly impact on Morken’s time and mindshare demands. He turned over Republic’s CEO role to Chris Chuang but remains chairman. He’s also still chair and CEO of Bandwidth.
“First of all, Chris Chuang is not just a Republic co-founder. He is a Stanford educated, McKinsey trained, TCV experienced former COO of Republic who grew the business from $0 to $100 million revenue in five years and who I expect as CEO will exceed me as a leader in every way fathomable,” Morken told WRAL TechWire when the spin-off was announced.
“Second, while I will be Chairman of Republic and Bandwidth, I will remain as CEO of Bandwidth where we have an extraordinary team, customers, and season of opportunity ahead of us.”
As Wired points out, just where Trump will want to take the FCC remains unclear. He has, after all, spoken out against the AT&T-Time Warner merger.
Was Morken chosen to help balance traditional Republican orthodoxy with startup thinking?
As Fortune and other media have reported, the other three FCC transition appointees (Jeff Eisenach, Mark Jamison, Roslyn Layton) have strong links to big carriers and are not net neutrality supporters.
As Wired reported Monday: “Last October, one of Trump’s FCC transition team members, former Sprint regulatory policy manager Mark Jamison, wrote an essay arguing that the FCC should be stripped of almost its authority other than managing radio spectrum licenses.”