FCC’s Carr wants to clear the road for connectivity

Neal Rubin

There was nothing particularly hard-hitting on a day when an FCC commissioner stepped into a boxing ring with a 3-year-old, but Brendan Carr did confirm his agency’s keen interest in autonomous vehicles and suggest that his agency will attempt to clear the road for them.


FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr chats with three-year-old Dior Wilson and boxing coach Benji White while taking a tour of the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, in Detroit on Monday.

He also gave a rough timeline for the next step in the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.

“There’s really a global race underway for these autonomous vehicles,” Carr said between rounds of a day-long Metro Detroit tour. Given their importance to the economy and driving safety, “We really can’t afford to slow down or delay the progress that’s being made toward connected vehicles.”

Carr’s itinerary included visits to the Downtown Boxing Gym, a few downtown businesses and the American Center for Mobility, the connected-cars testing facility at Willow Run. At the request of a pugilistic pre-schooler named Dior Wilson, Carr acccessorized his khakis and open-collared dress shirt with boxing gloves and made what he said was his first-ever appearance between the ropes.

At the nonprofit gym, with its motto of “Books before boxing,” he seemed most interested in a science and technology center sponsored by Rocket Fiber. The gym serves 170 kids, ages 7 to 18. About half use the tech center, said executive director Jessica Hauser, and the rest want to — “Am I old enough now?”

Be it in small businesses or youth programs, Carr said, he’s seeing the swift improvement brought by broadband access: “The economic opportunities. The educational opportunities. Then we’re taking it back to D.C.”

Carr was confirmed at the FCC in August after serving as an aide to commissioner Ajit Pai and as the FCC’s general counsel. Before that, he worked on the AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink accounts for a Washington, D.C., law firm.

All he knows about the potential merger between two other industry heavyweights, he said, is what he’s read since the $26.5 billion deal was announced Sunday.

“When they file their papers, we’ll take a look at the actual transaction,” Carr said, while attempting to render a decision within “a 180-day clock we try to stick with when we review mergers.”

The companies contend that the merger between the country’s third- and fourth-largest carriers would make the U.S. a leader in the race to develop a fifth-generation mobile network, or 5G.

The network is a crucial part of the path to autonomous vehicles.

“There’s a lot of engineering work that needs to run its course,” he noted, but “it’s going to mean a lot to the economy. It’s going to mean a lot to safety.”

“We need to be forward-leaning as a government,” he said.


Twitter: @nealrubin_dn