Gifford Says FCC, State Regulators, Should Strive for "Modesty"
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It takes one to know one! For nearly four years before he became president of The Progress & Freedom Foundation in January, Raymond L. Gifford chaired a state public utility commission. Now, wearing his think tank hat, he is determined to figure out what makes, or should make, a regulator tick. In a paper released today, Gifford outlines what he sees as the proper disposition of a regulator at the state or federal level. He calls it “assertive modesty,” and believes the latter half of the two-word term is severely lacking.
In the wake of last week’s billion-dollar battle over telecommunications sharing requirements at the FCC, Gifford’s call for moderation is particularly timely. Over the long term, he hopes it adds to the relatively scant supply of “how to” materials for current or would-be regulators. As accustomed as people are to reading about the “judicial temperament” of a sitting judge or nominee, few seem to have written about the appropriate “regulatory temperament.” (The Internet search engine, Google, produces nearly 3,000 citations for the former and only three for the latter, and one of those is a psychological term.)
In “Assertive Modesty in Regulation,” which is based on a recent speech, Gifford writes that the telecom slump is due, in no small degree, to what some one else might call regulatory hubris, but what he terms a lack of moderation. “…the [Telecommunications] Act – and particularly its implementation – was a failure of disposition. By disposition, I mean a habit of mind,” he writes. “The FCC’s disposition is…both immodest and grandiose.” (Incidentally, he uses the same terms to describe the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s call for Standard Market Design.) In fact, he writes, “the D.C. Circuit Court’s persistent whacking of the Commission over its unbundling rules and analysis can be seen as an attempt to force a more modest disposition on the FCC.”
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the impact of the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1993.