The Next FCC Chair: Decisive Protector of the Public Interest

The Next FCC Chair: Decisive Protector of the Public Interest

The Next FCC Chair: Decisive Protector of the Public Interest
By Gigi Sohn
January 15, 2013

Even though current FCC Chair Julius Genachowski has not announced that he is leaving, there is still much talk about who is being considered to be his successor. In its never-ending fascination with the horse race of politics, the trade press has been throwing out names of the supposed frontrunners every few weeks or so.

But this focus on names is premature. Before we talk about who will be the next FCC Chair, there needs to be a conversation on the qualities the ideal candidate should possess. Because the issues and controversies that will come before the Commission over the next four years will be no less contentious than in the previous four.

The next Chair will preside over matters such as the transition to all IP networks, finalizing the incentive auction and spectrum screen proceedings, figuring out how to promote broadband competition, and of course, how to reinstate the agency’s authority (and indeed its relevance) should it lose the legal challenge to the open Internet rules. This is in addition to whatever transactions the Commission may be asked to decide by industry.

Is Comfortable as a Regulator

So what qualities should the next FCC Chair possess? First and foremost, the individual must be comfortable in the role of a regulator. This should not be taken to mean that the Chair should seek to regulate every industry out the yin-yang. But it does mean that where it is necessary to promote competition and/or protect consumers, the Chair must act, and decisively, with the understanding that in many regulatory battles there are winners and losers. And yes, that action should also include deregulation, particularly where regulations protect incumbents at the expense of competition.

A sound regulator also keeps fights out of the White House. As important as those of us in the telecom bubble think these issues are, for a President dealing with more fiscal cliffs and budget ceilings in front of him, agitation to pass laws governing gun control, immigration reform, and climate change, communications policy issues just don’t rate. And that’s why we have an independent FCC – to protect the public interest in those matters.

Understands the Role of Congress

The next FCC Chair needs also to understand the role of Congress, and that body’s limitations given how sharply divided it is. Let’s get real – an Obama FCC Chair is going to get pounded by the House telecom subcommittee and the full energy and commerce committee much of the time. The House may even vote to overrule decisions, like it did in 2011 with the resolution of disapproval on the open Internet rules. But the Senate, with more Democrats, a number of whom are very progressive, will not allow this FCC to be overruled. So there is no need for the next Chair to negotiate with herself in the fear that Congress will undo what it has done. This is not to say that the next Chair should thumb her nose at Congress – Congress is a critical partner for an agency to accomplish its goals. But the next Chair needs to recognize that it will be up to the FCC to be the ultimate decider of the difficult questions that will come before it.


About Educational CyberPlayGround, Inc.®

Educational CyberPlayGround, Inc. strives to help Teachers, Parents, and Policy Makers Learn about: Music, Teaching, Internet, Technology, Literacy, Arts and Linguistics in the K12 classroom.
Aside | This entry was posted in NetHappenings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.