PFF's May with Veteran Regulators Ness, Miller and Gaskins
WASHINGTON D.C. - As we approach a new Congress that will consider an overhaul of telecommunications law, there is a considerable focus on the structure of the Federal Communications Commission and how it could be reformed. The Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow Randoph May has written that the number of commissioners at the FCC should be reduced from five to three, or even to one single head. May, director of Communications Policy Studies, also has argued the slimmed-down agency should be moved into the executive branch, where it would be subject to a greater degree of presidential supervision.
FCC reform was debated at a recent Congressional Seminar hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. A transcript of the October 15 event, "Reinventing the FCC for the Digital Age," is now available on the PFF web site. May was joined at the event by Susan Ness, former FCC commissioner; James C. Miller III, former head of the Office of Management and Budget and the Federal Trade Commission; and Darius Gaskins, former chair of the Interstate Commerce Commission and ex-director of the Economics Bureaus of the Civil Aeronautics Board and the FTC. The following are highlights of the exchange:
May: "You would have more political accountability for what are essentially policy decisions that Congress has not made itself. There's no right answer to most of the policy decisions that the FCC makes. And there's no reason why political or philosophical predilections should not inform these policy determinations."
Ness: "I personally believe that it is dangerous to have the responsibility of our communications system in this country under the authority of an administration, be it Republican or Democrat... I think five [commissioners] is a good, solid number because you really can work collectively with five members, and oftentimes the decisions that are rendered are better as a whole than the sum of the parts."
Miller: "As a public choice economist, as opposed to being an ordinary economist, I know that institutions matter. How you organize the process really matters... I think Congress should terminate the economic regulatory powers of the Commission on a scheduled date... As an institutional matter, I would bring the FCC's rulemakings under the umbrella of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and have [OIRA] review all their rules for cost-effectiveness, just as they review the rules of the EPA and OSHA and other agencies."
Gaskins: "The railroads said, 'You can wipe out the ICC, we don't care.' The shippers said, 'No, you can't do that, we don't know what's going to happen with this deregulated monster.' Well, over the next decade both of them were surprised. Rates fell like a stone. In fact, rates were reduced faster in the railroad industry in that timeframe than almost any other deregulated industry ever."
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.