Dish Network chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen told analysts and reporters Wednesday that he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will take a softer approach to regulatory issues in the communications business, adding that given his voter base, the new Administration could help bring greater connectivity to rural parts of the country.
Trump won a stunning upset Tuesday over Democrat Hillary Clinton and has spoken critically of big media mergers during the campaign – he said he would block the AT&T-Time Warner merger and said the Comcast-NBC Universal merger concentrated too much power. While his ultimate stance on big media and mergers will depend on who he picks to head key regulatory agencies like the Dept. of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, Ergen said that position could change with time.
“You always have to take it seriously what someone who is running for President says,” Ergen said on a conference call with analysts and reporters to discuss third quarter results. “Any candidate would reserve the right to change their mind if they had different facts. The regulatory process is probably as unknown as it was before the election.”
Ergen added he expects Trump to tread lightly on regulatory issues like Net Neutrality.
“In general I think the Republican leadership, both in the Congress and the Executive Branch and potentially the Supreme Court will have a lighter hand with regulation,” Ergen said. “You may see Net Neutrality challenged or weakened going forward. The same people that voted in the election are going to say ‘I want to be treated fairly’ and ‘I don’t want to be gouged.’ You’re going to see a balance there.”
That voter base – a large percentage of which is in rural areas that have less access to broadband, might also benefit from Trump’s Administration.
“You’ve got a lot of potential policy positives for business in general,” Ergen said. “Those companies that might have capex, whether it be satellites or networks or connectivity to Rural America or connectivity to inner cities.Dish is positioned in those areas should this Administration decide to go that route, which I think there is a high likelihood they will. This was an election about the haves and the have-nots. The have-nots voted for Donald Trump. Rural America doesn’t have much connectivity.”