January 25, 2022

On January 25, 2022, this year’s Student Scholars Series kicked off with a presentation given by Catholic Law third-year student Kelly Laughlin. Laughlin’s work entitled, Rural Broadband Buildout: How the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Anti-Competitive Practices Collided in the 5G Fund Proceeding, examines rural broadband expansion at the center of the FCC policy agenda—acknowledging the inherent difficulties of rural broadband buildout while also showing a lack of strong incentive structure on the part of the FCC to support their policy goals.

Laughlin first became interested in the topic while working on consulting projects on the Sprint/T-Mobile merger prior to starting law school. During that time, she started to see a connection between telecommunications network buildout and large mergers in this sector. Through her research, Laughlin discusses how the FCC’s approach to approving large telecommunications mergers has impacted rural broadband buildout efforts. She argues that the Commission has entrusted the private sector to build networks in rural areas without the proper incentive structure in place to ensure that rural customers receive broadband access. In particular, her note discusses how the recent T-Mobile/Sprint merger was approved alongside rural broadband conditions, but the FCC has decided to allow T-Mobile to continue receiving support from Universal Service programs like the 5G Fund for Rural America.

Laughlin’s presentation respondent, Michael Lazarus, is one of the founding members of Telecommunications Law Professionals, and currently is the Managing Member of the firm. He advises domestic and international clients in the telecommunications industry on transactional and regulatory matters before the FCC and state and local regulatory bodies. He handles a wide range of legal matters for telecommunications companies, including general counseling on federal regulatory issues, regulatory policy advocacy at the FCC and on Capitol Hill, spectrum auction advice, communications-related litigation before the FCC, federal courts, state courts, and state public utility commissions, international telecommunications ventures, and a wide range of other transactions including mergers and acquisitions, equipment contracts, debt and equity placements, intercarrier arrangements and interconnection agreements.

Laughlin earned her Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Virginia. She has a passion for telecommunications regulation and wanted to research rural broadband expansion in the U.S. Laughlin has interned at Telecommunications Law Professionals, PLLC, the FCC, and Wiley Rein LLP. Before law school, she was a Content Manager of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Gerson Lehrman Group, where she specialized in telecommunications and technology policy.

The Student Scholars Series was founded in 2009 by Catholic Law Professor A.G. Harmon to recognize notable legal scholarship produced by members of the student body during the academic year and to foster the skills associated with presenting and defending that scholarship in a professional, conference-style setting.

Below is a recording of the January 25 program.