Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

My View from the Doorstep of FCC Change

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

My View from the Doorstep of FCC Change

Article excerpt


As a new commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC" or "the Commission"), I have developed five key principles that inform my regulatory philosophy and that will serve as guideposts during my tenure at the FCC. This Article defines and gives context to those principles.

First, Congress sets the FCC's responsibilities in the Communications Act, and the Commission should faithfully implement those tasks rather than pursuing an independent agenda. Second, fully functioning markets deliver better products and services to consumers as compared to markets regulated by the government. Unless structural factors prevent markets from being competitive, or Congress has established objectives (such as universal service) that are not market-based, government should be reluctant to intervene in the marketplace. Third, where the FCC promulgates rules, it should ensure that those rules are clear and vigorously enforced. Efficient markets depend on clear and predictable rules, and a failure to enforce rules undermines the agency's credibility and effectiveness. Fourth, a regulatory agency--particularly one with jurisdiction over a high-tech sector like communications--cannot possibly duplicate the resources and expertise of those it regulates. Therefore, the FCC must be humble about its own abilities and must reach out to consumer groups, industry, trade associations, and state regulators to maximize the information available in the decision-making process. Finally, as a government agency supported by taxpayers, the FCC should strive to provide the same degree of responsiveness and effectiveness that would be expected of an organization in the private sector.

These principles are the product of my experiences in government and the private sector. I have previously served at the FCC as a legal advisor under two respected and dedicated commissioners, and I have worked for an array of businesses representing a broad spectrum of the communications industry, including providers of satellite, wireless, and wireline communications services. I have also served in a variety of leadership capacities for the Federal Communications Bar Association, including a term as its president.

While I am fortunate to have learned a lot from these diverse experiences, no set of experiences can fully prepare a commissioner to address all of the complex technical and legal issues the Commission faces on a daily basis. But I am confident that, by relying on the principles discussed in this Article, I will help the Commission deliver to consumers the benefits envisioned by Congress in enacting the Communications Act. While we have many hard problems to address, I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners, the talented and hard-working agency staff, state regulators, consumers, trade associations, businesses, and the Bar to meet these challenges.


A. The FCC Should Focus on Implementing the Agenda Set by Congress in the Statute

The FCC is an independent agency created by Congress, and as such, its priorities are defined not by the predilections of the commissioners but by the text of the Communications Act. Like any institution, the FCC has a finite amount of resources. We should expend those resources implementing congressional priorities, and only after those are fulfilled should we pursue objectives that lie within our discretionary authority.

Statutory language at its best provides a clear guide for the Commission's priorities. Landmark legislation like the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ("the 1996 Act" or "the Act") serves as an excellent example. In many of the Act's provisions, Congress set forth explicit timetables for the FCC's execution of statutory mandates, including a six-month deadline for implementing the market-opening duties in section 251 (1) and a two-year deadline for overhauling the universal service subsidy scheme in section 254. …

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