Regulators suffer from severe cases of marginal thinking. They, like the attorneys that advise them, can’t seem to let go of major pieces of the past, holding on to old ideas when facing new challenges. Attorneys call this annoying need to move slowly from old positions, precedence. I call it straight up fear. Whatever you call it, the need to hang on to old rules has to be abandoned if regulation is to have any effect in this established 21st century world of converged platforms being used to deliver content, information, and knowledge.
One indication that we have gotten off on the wrong foot regarding a revision of the Communications Act of 1934 is the word, “revision.” The Act doesn’t need revision. The statute is so far out of touch with today’s delivery platform that what’s needed is a complete rewrite. We need a new act written from scratch. No more holding on to the 1990s. We should look instead at the rewrite as an opportunity to actually place regulation within a commerce and market framework. We do that by asking two primary questions from the outset. One, are we writing legislation that actually facilitates the increase in our national output. Second, are we writing legislation that prevents the erection of financial, technical, legal, and regulatory barriers to the knowledge market.
U.S. Representative Greg Walden’s statement yesterday about retransmission agreements was disappointing because he did not start out addressing the issue within a true economic framework. While I commend him for emphasizing the benefits of market approaches to resolving these disputes, a much more direct economic framework for analysis could have been applied that would give him and other policy makers the freedom to escape precedence.
I fear that the usual piecemeal approach will be taken toward this revision. Such an approach is the result of our current pluralistic system of representation and governance where representatives from interests impacted by the revision will come to the table, bringing, unfortunately, a more “what’s in it for me the agent” versus “what’s in it for the economy and the markets” approach. Also with the 2014 midterms around the corner and a Democratic-controlled Senate, much may not be done in terms of a revision. Gridlock may be the result.