New FCC Chair's First Statements on Regulatory Philosophy

By Gary Kim December 03, 2013

There is always a guessing game that goes on at the start of any new Federal Communications Commission chairman’s tenure about the likely direction of future policy, or at least the philosophy regarding that potential direction. New Chairman Tom Wheeler offers the first indication of such a philosophy in a short e-book, titled “Net Effects: The Past, Present and Future Impact of our Networks.”

The book is available for free on the FCC website, Amazon Kindle, Scribd, and other platforms.

Regulating the  Internet” is a non-starter,” Wheeler says. That should surprise nobody. As you also would expect, Wheeler expresses fundamental support for competition and protection of the “network compact.” That also is about what you’d expect from the head of an agency that is charged with doing both.

“Our goal should be to ask how competition can best serve the public – and what, if any, action (including governmental action) is needed to preserve the future of network competition in wired or wireless networks,” Wheeler also said.

“If the facts and data determine that a market is competitive, the need for FCC intervention decreases,” he explained. “I have zero interest in imposing new regulations on a competitive market just because we can.”

On the other hand, Wheeler notes that competition does not and will not produce adequate outcomes in the circumstance of significant, persisting market power or of significant negative externalities: “Where those occur, the Communications Act and the interests of our society – the public interest – compel us to act and we will,” says Wheeler.

In terms of protecting the “network compact,” Wheeler says the areas of concern include accessibility, interconnection, and public safety and security.

Accessibility includes our historic notions of universal access. Interconnection, meanwhile, might cover any number of issues beyond the traditional requirement that networks pass traffic from other networks back and forth without hindrance. Finally, security includes the traditional concern about emergency calling and now protection from cyber threats.

In other words, in his first public comments on regulatory philosophy, Wheeler pretty much provided no indication that his chairmanship will immediately or drastically deviate from the policies one would expect any FCC to pursue.

It isn’t the final word, but the initial statement does not seem to raise any concerns.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

Contributing Editor

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