May Calls for New Thinking and Structural Reform of Agency
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Is the Federal Communications Commission becoming an anachronism in today’s fast-moving communications and technology marketplace? Randolph J. May, Senior Fellow and Director of Communications Policy Studies at The Progress & Freedom Foundation argues that it may be, and claims this year’s tumult at the agency, and modern pressure-politics, may be the spur for some “new thinking” within and without the Portals Building. May holds that recent events in the Commission’s Triennial Review and Media Ownership proceedings suggest the agency may be ripe for structural reforms that would better serve communications policy-making in the 21st Century.
In a pair of recent articles published in CNET and the Washington Times, May discusses the FCC’s six months delay in issuing the Triennial Review order – and the failure to still produce a sound result – and the potential impact of the politicization of the agency in the recent debate over new media ownership rules.
“The FCC’s unprecedented delay in issuing a timely decision in the facilities-sharing proceeding and the resort to novel populist organizing tactics designed to influence the agency’s media ownership decision suggests the time may once again be ripe to begin considering some structural reforms at the agency,” May writes in the Times. “These might even include questioning whether it is desirable to retain a hydra-headed commission outside of the executive branch…a single-headed agency would at least be politically accountable to the president.”
And, as May writes in CNET, the protracted delay in issuing the Triennial Review order, which was supposedly adopted last February but not made final until August 21, still left the FCC in a posture that is decidedly too regulatory in light of market conditions:
“Although worse epitaphs could be hurled at the agency, the best that can be said is that the FCC’s order is decidedly two-faced…two-faced in that in one part of its decision [punting analog facilities-sharing decisions to the states] the commission’s gaze remains firmly fixed on the rear view mirror, looking backwards at a legacy of regulatory micromanagement that contributed to the telecom bust, while in the other part [non-sharing of new fiber or packet-switched broadband facilities] the commission looks forward toward a less regulatory healthier telecom future.”
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the impact of the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1993.