The FCC is Broken

A new report in The Hill notes House Republicans’ concern over “dysfunction” at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the need for overhaul. Their primary concerns, at least in the elements of a Republican memo so far available, tend to emphasize the agency’s moving ahead with rulings without full publication, disclosure and opportunity for public comment, and with assuring minimum review periods in the future.

But questions for FCC, its compulsory net neutrality campaign and its enthusiasm for antitrust intervention need to go far deeper than that. To get overhaul, policymakers must themselves reject and then force FCC to reflect on and question the pro-regulatory bias that underlies everything it does. For example:

  • What is the agency doing to halt and discourage antitrust interference with communications ventures (like the overly delayed XM-Sirius merger, the delayed Comcast NBC merger, the current AT&T merger with T-Mobile, its yet-to-be-seen response to Microsoft/Skype) in order to foster massive-scale infrastructure competition and rivalrous response that competitors otherwise can forgo?
  • Describe FCC’s research into how innovation in user ownership (real estate developers, content companies, etc.) of portions of communications infrastructures offset market power and relax calls for net neutrality?
  • Describe FCC’s recent actions to promote alternatives to neutrality regulation such as promoting cross-industry partnerships by calling for the dismantling of regulatory silos that artificially separate infrastructure like electricity, water, rail, sewer, telecommunications and transportation.
  • Explain why compulsory net neutrality is the enemy of openness and expansion and what FCC is doing to combat it.
  • In what sense does FCC recognize the relevant competitive challenge is not merely the “neutral” transfer of information across today’s existing networks, but the creation of networks as such?
  • How does FCC intend to clarify to a confused policy environment that “neutrality” or “openness” represent one of many variable features of many types of networks that potentially can co-exist, than the defining characteristic?
  • How is FCC leading efforts to avoid fostering a federally managed communications industry riven with lobbying?
  • What is FCC doing to explain network management’s role in expanding infrastructure and bandwidth creation, consumer welfare, child safety, homeland security, network and information security, privacy and other desirable features of content and service, as well as reducing the vulnerability of intellectual property to piracy?
  • Describe the proliferation of overlapping networks at the dawn of the communications age, and how, if America could achieve that with 1907’s GDP level, it undermines the case for compulsory net neutrality in 2011.
  • Describe results of investigations into other alternatives to neutrality, such as reducing franchise, zoning, and environmental barriers.
  • Describe how FCC pledges to repudiate price and entry regulations in the wake of any neutrality mandates.
  • Describe how net neutrality will lessen future FCC authority and reduce its budget.

FCC concerns itself with none of these things, which is why overhaul or replacement should be on the congressional to-do list.