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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bush Priorities for Telecom: Another Hopeful Sign
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Notwithstanding my understandable fear that I have been blogging away in the darkness, it appears (through my rose-colored glasses) that some of my wonkish pleas have been heard at the highest levels of government. Specifically, as other telecom junkies speculated publicly about who will replace Chairman Michael Powell at the helm of the FCC, I suggested we focus instead on whether the White House would make it a priority to promote innovation and investment in digital technologies through the type of regulatory restraint Powell has championed. I then chose hope over disappointment with respect to the faint (but, I argued, nontrivial) references to promoting investment and innovation in last month's State of the Union Address.

To those naysayers who scolded me privately for getting choked up by that speech, I respond that perhaps that knot in my throat was not for naught: the President's economic advisors appear to have been similarly moved.

I cannot, of course, say with certainty that the Council of Economic Advisors was reacting to the specific nuggets of telecom optimism that I highlighted. But it is conspicuous how consistent their recent recommendations are with current FCC policy, not to mention the views of my telecom and IP colleagues at PFF.

In pertinent part, the Advisors emphasized the importance of information technology as a driver of economic expansion, accounting for one-quarter of the growth in the real gross domestic product in 2003. Thus, they urged regulators to rethink rules written before (and now hindering to) the emergence of new digital technologies. These new technologies, they reasoned, have seriously challenged the notion that services like telephony and cable service are unassailable natural monopolies.

Deregulatory telecom reform? Hmmm, sounds like Powell's reign, but where else have I heard that before? Oh yes: right here.

The President's chief economic advisors also stressed the need to promote investment and innovation by defining and protecting property rights. Again, sounds very familiar, especially with respect to such FCC policies as its decision not to force incumbent phone companies to lease their broadband networks to competitors. It also sounds familiar with respect to my colleagues' efforts to safeguard intellectual property as media companies struggle to develop business models that will be sustainable in the digital age.

The Council even threw in a plug for protecting consumers through competition and private sector innovation, rather than through regulation, a point I emphasized most recently in the cable context.

Are you catching all of this?

Okay, perhaps the Council's Report falls somewhat short of the strong statement of Administration priorities that might sway even independent agencies like the FCC. But it does serve as another dot for the agency's new leadership to connect in tracing the same market-oriented trajectory established by the current Commission in promoting broadband and other advanced services.

So while some of you mock my attempts to spread the gospel of positive-thinking to telecom policy, I will content myself that the Council's Report provides another hopeful sign of what the White House may expect of the new FCC.

posted by Kyle Dixon @ 8:58 PM | The FCC

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