Foundation Scholars See Challenges Ahead
WASHINGTON D.C. - Several senior fellows at The Progress & Freedom Foundation today welcomed the expected naming of FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin to be the next FCC chairman, and they anticipate working with him in his new post. Martin is a seasoned policymaker, and these fellows hope and anticipate that he will recognize the critical role the digital economy will play in America 's future. The PFF senior fellows see a need for Martin to refrain from regulating new technologies, preach the importance of a Telecom Act rewrite, protect free speech and ensure that the White House is engaged in communications policy.
"Kevin Martin takes office at a critical time in the history of communications," said President Ray Gifford. "The much-hyped world of convergence is finally here, with telecom, cable, wireless and other industries all competing heartily for customers in broadband, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and video, including IP video. The potential for legacy regulation to creep to new platforms and services is quite real." "Martin will face tremendous pressure to expand regulation," Gifford said, "but any such action would stifle innovation and harm consumers. He must continue the agenda of his predecessor, Michael Powell, and press for intermodal competition and the debut of new goods and services free of regulatory burdens." Finally, Gifford said "I hope Martin will demonstrate the determination, principles and foresight [former Civil Aeronautics Board Chairman] Fred Kahn brought to his mission of benefiting consumers through restructuring the airline industry."
"First and foremost, it will be important for Martin to demonstrate an appreciation of the way technological developments and new competitive marketplace realities undermine the rationale for continued economic regulation of the telecom industry," said Randolph May, senior fellow and director of communications policy studies. "This appreciation should manifest itself in a willingness to assume a leadership role in explaining to Congress, the president, and the American public why we need an updated Communications Act and why the FCC itself needs to be substantially transformed."
"To succeed as Chair," said Senior Fellow Kyle Dixon, "Martin must withstand inevitable criticism in complex battles where some party must lose, and explain why investment and innovation are good for consumers. If Martin can win support and air cover from the White House and his colleagues, he will be well on his way." Dixon worked seven years at the FCC under Powell, departing last year after serving as the agency's broadband advisor.
"It's imperative that the FCC not fall into the trap of embracing widespread suppression of free speech in the name of combating indecency," said Senior Fellow Adam Thierer, director of the Center for the Study of Digital Property. "As a commissioner Kevin Martin was at times sympathetic with this movement, but it is my hope that as chairman he will recognize the constitutional limits placed on the agency and respect the ability of the American people to monitor their own media choices, as President Bush did in reminding people of the TV's off button."
Martin's selection leaves a Republican vacancy at the FCC for a new commissioner. As the search for Powell's replacement showed, there is an ample selection of qualified individuals for the post, and the senior fellows above hope that individual is named soon so he or she can appear before the U.S. Senate for confirmation and begin working with Martin and the other commissioners.
Media can contact Gifford, May, Dixon and Thierer for comment at 202-289-8928.
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.