Friday, October 30, 2009

Kudos for Collegiality

I have been meaning to take note of the degree of collegiality among the five commissioners that seemed to prevail at the FCC's meeting last week at which the agency adopted its net neutrality rulemaking. It was evident from watching the Commission meeting that all the commissioners, even the two who disagreed with the NPRM's thrust, gave Chairman Julius Genachowski high marks thus far for his efforts to create a collegial working environment, including his efforts with respect to formulating the net neutrality rulemaking.

Regular readers of this space, or even irregular ones, know that I disagree – and fairly strongly so – with the notion that the Commission needs to adopt new net neutrality mandates, including one that prohibits "discrimination." The course upon which the Commission is embarking has the potential to turn the nation's broadband providers – whether wireline, cable, satellite, or wireless – into old-fashioned public utilities. Not what we need now.

That said, as the Commission moves forward in the net neutrality proceeding, and others as well, it is far better that, to the extent possible, the five commissioners operate in a collegial environment in which they feel free comfortably to express divergent opinions and exchange new ideas. Such a collegial environment is more likely to lead to sounder decisionmaking than a strained one. A collegial environment may lead the five commissioners to find common ground in some instances when there seems to be none – although in many cases, as exemplified by the partial dissents of Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker in the net neutrality rulemaking, it is important to stand on principle where fundamental differences exists.

It is still early in his chairmanship, and things could change. And I know already that, as a matter of philosophical principle and policy perspective, I will disagree with Chairman Genachowski's conclusions on many issues. Nevertheless, judging from the remarks of his fellow commissioners at last week's meeting and from what I hear otherwise, he deserves kudos for trying to promote a collegial environment in the setting of a multimember body in which collegiality is an important value. On this score, he has my congratulations and best wishes as well.