Tuesday, November 1, 2005 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Another test drive for net neutrality?

With one set of mergers out of the way, the FCC now must turn to the carcass of bankrupt Adelphia, which is being divvied between Comcast and Time Warner. With a 2-2 Commission, undoubtedly Chairman Martin will again be compelled to deal, and deal with the demands of unreconstructed progressive, Commissioner Copps. [I don't consider this description an epithet so much as an accurate description of the Commissioner's regulatory proclivities.]

In turn, one can surmise, that the same "voluntary concessions" will be requested in these cable mergers, notably the demand for a time-limited net neutrality pledge. Who knows if Comcast and Time Warner will capitulate to such a demand. To its credit, the cable industry has been more adamant than the traditional common carrier Bell companies in asserting its property rights on this front. That said, regulatory blackmail is particularly effective when companies are stuck between regulators and capital markets.

Without a working majority, the Chairman is stuck having to make deals. It would of course be too much to ask for some clever cable lawyers force the FCC into imposing these regulation so as to create an appealable issue. That would delay the transaction and cost more than the symbolic regulation a time-limited 'net neutrality' concession would involve.

The real scandal here is that Chairman Martin is without a working majority nearly 9 months after the exit of Chairman Powell. I realize that the White House has other nominations on the front-burner, but the nominees for the open FCC seats have been known since this summer. The delay is inexplicable. In the meantime, the communications sector gets a greater dose of Commissioner Copps's regulatory progressivism than Chairman Martin's agenda for markets and property rights. It is a policy and personnel failure that is costing the economy and President's supposed broadband agenda.

posted by Ray Gifford @ 6:10 PM | Cable , The FCC