Hands off Cable, FCC

The FCC today is going to consider expanding its authority to saddle cable TV with many of the same regulations as broadcast. That, to be concise, is a bad idea. Our very own Wayne Crews expands on why:

The Federal Communications Commission’s potential enlargement of its power is a giant step backward for the entire communications realm, not just cable. Chairman Kevin Martin’s job is to safeguard and enlarge economic liberty in the communications sector. His — or someone else’s — leadership is needed to roll back outmoded, pre-satellite, pre-Internet era dictates, and abandon the obsession with arbitrary percentages and thresholds. The desperately needed leadership task is to replace archaic political discipline by paving the way for greater market-driven competitive discipline.

That means the FCC’s only remaining role in today’s era is establishing and liberalizing markets in spectrum; otherwise, hands off. Ironically these constant bureaucratic interferences in the communications market by a grasping, increasingly irrelevant FCC are the macro version of what constant interruptions are to normal face-to-face conversation.

There’s something perverse in waiting until cable is widely available, with competitors arrayed against it, and massive infrastructure projects underway, before exploiting decades-old legislative provisions that conveniently perpetuate Washington’s ability to officiate and meddle. This episode says more about the phenomenon of bureaucracy than it does about the marketplace. Bureaucratic nostalgia for a past era of importance cannot legitimately drive public policy. The FCC may not relent on this and other initiatives; the congressmen who oppose the agency’s non-market endeavors may need to revisit the authority they’ve given the agency.