Monday, October 21, 2013

A New FCC or Same Old, Same Old Week - In Spades

Since the founding of the Free State Foundation in 2006, a primary focus of our think tank has been advocating FCC reform, or to put it another way, advocating that the FCC, within the confines of its statutory authority, reorient its mission and its methods.

What do I mean by reorienting its mission and its methods?

I mean that, in light of the dramatic communications marketplace changes that have occurred in the past decade and a half, attributable in substantial part to technological advances associated with the transition from narrowband services to digital broadband services, the FCC needs to change its regulatory mindset from one grounded in traditional public utility-style and common carrier principles to one grounded in free market-oriented principles.

The FCC needs to implement this reorientation of its regulatory framework because the clear result of the dramatic marketplace changes referred to above – all part of what is often referred to today as the "IP transition" or Internet world – is increasing competition and consumer choice in all the now-converging market segments under the Commission's jurisdiction. And increasing competition and consumer choice means that, putting aside certain public safety and universal service concerns, the agency generally should not intervene in the marketplace absent demonstrable evidence of market failure and consumer harm.

Well, this is all just a brief preface to saying, that even though we focus on reforming communications policy on a day-to-day basis here at FSF, this week is going to be an especially busy one in that regard. Call it the "A New FCC or Same Old, Same Old Week – In Spades."

On Wednesday, I am testifying at the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on "The Evolution of Wired Communications Networks." It would not have been a stretch to title the hearing "The Revolution in Wired Communications Networks." Titles aside, there is no doubt that the ongoing IP transition, long in process, not only is changing the technologies employed by communications networks, but, more importantly, also the marketplace structure and the choices available to consumers.

I am sure the hearing will provide a good forum for focusing on the regulatory framework changes that should accompany the IP transition, and I commend Chairman Walden and the committee for holding the hearing.

As I write this, I am drafting my testimony with my other hand. Neat trick! I haven't finished and, in any event, I wouldn't want to give away my testimony here. But I know one thing I will say goes like this: The FCC and Congress should not look at the IP-transition that is inexorably moving forward just as an opportunity to implement a new regulatory model fit for the digital age. Given the stakes, it should be viewed as a necessity.

On Thursday, FSF is holding a lunch seminar at the National Press Club titled, "A New FCC or Same Old, Same Old." Congressman Bob Latta, Vice Chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, a leader of communications policy reform efforts, will deliver opening remarks. He will be followed by a session with a diverse panel of industry and academic experts.

With Tom Wheeler and Michael O'Rielly expected to arrive shortly as the new FCC Chairman and Commissioner, the FCC will be back to its full five-member complement.  So, it's a perfect time, especially a day after the important House hearing, to further explore whether we can expect "A New FCC or Same Old, Same Old."

I'm confident we'll have an informed, interesting, and lively discussion, and, as always at Free State Foundation events, we will make sure we have some time for questions and comments.

If you wish to attend Thursday's lunch seminar, registration is complimentary. But you must register to attend. If you haven't done so already, you can register here.

Anyway, it's "A New FCC or Same Old, Same Old Week – In Spades." So, let's get down to work.