Thursday, September 2, 2004 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Reinventing the FCC

In an August 31 article in the New York Sun [subscription required], former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth asserts that a major candidate for improving government in a second Bush term should be improving communications policy. Agreed.

He claims the FCC has contributed to the malaise in the communications sector "with weak communications policy, including indecision, overly complex rules, and rules that are frequently overturned in court." Agreed. (In fact, I said the same thing in my August 23 article, "Consolidate FCC Power," in the National Law Journal.)

But Harold then goes on to say: "The first step is perhaps the least obvious: Disengage the White House from communications policy." He says communications policy issues "should not compete for executive office attention with war on the terrorism, tax policy, or other issues vital to the president."

Granted that the president (himself) must priortize his time and can't be personally involved in deciding all issues. Of course. But that is not an argument against moving most communications policymaking into the Executive Branch where the president nevertheless would be accountable for the actions of those that make policy--and get involved where need be. Right now it's hard to blame the president, as Furchtgott-Roth seemingly does, for the indecision, overly complex, legally vulnerable rules that the former commissioner bemoans. You can blame the so-called "independent" FCC commissioners, if you wish, but you certainly can't vote to replace them.

In my view, communications policymaking would benefit from the slimmed-down decision-making and Executive Branch accountability that I propose for consideration in my NLJ article. Let's don't naively assume that policymaking doesn't involve politics; it does, and it should.

Sounds like the debate concerning a reinvented FCC is one worth having as we begin to contemplate a Telecom Act rewrite.

posted by Randolph May @ 2:12 PM | General