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Genachowski’s painstaking approach

Posted December 1st, 2012 in FCC, Government Regulation and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

The Washington Post published an article back on 28 November 2012 about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s approach to regulation. The article, written by Cecilia Kang, describes Mr. Genachowski’s approach as “painstaking”. Question is, who received the most pain from Mr. Genachowski’s staking.

Mr. Genachowski’s approach may have been “painstaking”, but his major accomplishments show a penchant for replacing market driven approaches with quasi government determination of market structure with a bias toward the opinions of advocacy groups like Free Press and Public Knowledge.

Let’s face it. Free Press and Public Knowledge, who both got a lot of play from Ms. Kang in this article, had a good time under the Genachowski regime. These grass roots advocates got their net neutrality rules codified much to the chagrin of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and pushed the FCC to consider reclassifying broadband as telecommunications, a move that would have driven broadband regulation to the auspices of a 20th century regulatory regime that would have slowed down investment in broadband deployment, negatively impacting shareholders and consumers alike.

If the FCC wants to appear effective in the 21st century, the agency should focus on promoting commerce by opening up access to spectrum and making sure it gets to the carrier placing the highest value on it. Those carriers tend to be the larger carriers who have invested the most to reach the most customers.

Driving a stake in the broadband industry by inflicting the pain of overly intrusive regulations should not be the legacy Mr. Genachowski pursues. The FCC shouldn’t try to inorganically create a competitive market in its own image.

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FCC asserts social policy of strategic bandwidth advantage but no clear public policy for getting there

Posted September 26th, 2012 in Broadband, FCC, Government Regulation, spectrum and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

I define social policy as the goal society wants to meet. It’s a state of mind. Public policy is the action that government takes to get society to that desired point. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s speech at VOX Media’s headquarters showed that the FCC does not a command of the definitions.

Mr. Genachowski presented what appears to be a social policy for where America needs to be going in order to ensure and continue our dominance in broadband. He termed this social policy, “strategic bandwidth advantage”. While laying out the three pillars upon which it is supposed to stand; broadband speed, capacity, and ubiquity, Mr. Genachowski never quite said what strategic bandwidth advantage is supposed to be.

In fairness Mr. Genachowski did lay out where America stands with current broadband capability and capacity. On a going forward basis Mr. Genachowski didn’t really say how this new goal of strategic bandwidth advantage differs from our current national broadband plan. At times it sounded like Mr.Genachowski was relegating the NBP to a tactical position versus the ultimate goal.

Mr. Genachowski’s new goal needs to be fleshed out. If bandwidth advantage is literally about widening the digital highway, then America will need more than lip service from the FCC about a continued light touch regulatory approach. The FCC will have to abandon legacy monopoly style regulations that barely worked in the 1980s; policies that definitely are not applicable today.

The FCC and the Obama Administration will also have to lay out clear goals for broadband. Its vision will have to be clearer and make a detailed presentation of the policy tools it plans to use going forward. This includes clearer signals as to what its policy tools are going to be. This will go a long way to eradicating regulatory uncertainty.

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Delay, Delay, Delay was Not the Bernanke Way

If it wasn’t so serious, I would send a replica of the Mayan clock to all members of the Federal Communications Commission so that they are reminded of the gravity of the spectrum crunch. Maybe hearing or seeing a countdown will put the commissioners in a more urgent frame of mind.

It reminds me of the summer of 2007. Anxiety in the credit markets about the inability of borrowers to pay back sub-prime loans and the increased risk to investors that the portfolio of mortgage-backed securities either they or the companies they invested in was being threatened by default sent signals to the Federal Reserve that some type of action needed to be taken. Its chairman, Ben S. Bernanke took cues from the history of the Great Depression and determined that action, not delay, was the call of the day.

FCC chairman Genachowski doesn’t have precedent to work with. The introduction of the iPhone in that very weekend in 2007 helped spark such a demand for apps and spectrum that wireless carriers and the FCC were caught off guard. AT&T has seen demand for data increase 8,000%. The industry expects to run out of spectrum by 2015, yet, as Andrew Seybold concisely and eloquently pointed out, delay seems to be an option the FCC prefers pursue.

Delay is putting it mildly. Aiding and abetting a DOJ take down of the proposed license transfer from T-Mobile to AT&T sent signals to the industry that other measures, mostly detrimental to consumer welfare, would have to be taken. When you limit the supply of a resource, the price on the end product is likely to increase.

Bernanke’s actions, while not flawless, helped introduce stability into the financial markets. Ironically, both the financial industry and wireless industry saw their milestones occur the very same weekend. Unfortunately, the paths for decision making have diverged in totally opposite directions.

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Chairman Genachowski. It’s Your Turn to Tweet

Posted July 25th, 2012 in FCC, Government Regulation, Twitter and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Today Federal Communications Commission member Jessica Rosenworcel joined the Twitter ranks, launching her Twitter account much to my delight. I was so elated I even sent a quick hello to welcome her to the platform. Twitter can provide a public servant a quick way to get their messages out to the public. Just ask Mayor Corey Booker of Newark about how effective Twitter is.

While I don’t expect Ms. Rosenworcel to go digging snow on the streets of Washington or running into burning houses to save kittens, I look forward to what I call political heroism as she provides us with a little more transparency and insight on policymaking at the FCC.

Now it’s time to get the rest of the commissioners on board. Maybe they will follow their leader, Chairman Genachowski once he gets a Twitter handle. If he’s scratching his head about an appropriate name for his account, I came up with a couple.

Mr. Genachowski could try TheOriginalGFCC or TheGmanFCC. Something funky and outside the box would make interacting with the commish pretty cool. You can have fun with it, Mr. Genachowski. The public will also appreciate a tweet every now and then explaining what the FCC is all about and how specific initiatives are impacting them.

Anyway, see you in the Twittersphere…

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FCC & unleashing technology

Posted February 29th, 2012 in Broadband, employment, entrepreneurship, first responders and tagged , by Alton Drew

“At the FCC, our mission is to unleash the potential of communications technology –
including mobile broadband – to benefit our economy and our society. We believe in the
power of dynamic free markets to drive these benefits, and that government has an
important but limited role to play in enabling innovation and investment in
communications technologies and services, promoting competition, and empowering
consumers.”

These words were shared by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski during a speech delivered in Barcelona a couple days ago. While I appreciate the Chairman’s intention to make broadband access available to every American household, we shouldn’t give Spain the impression that there is another European country with a capital west of Portugal.

Chairman Genachowski’s statement gives the impression that the FCC controls private capital namely communications technology. Yes, to a certain degree, the FCC regulates or creates a framework for access to the telecommunications, broadcast, and cable television markets. It also sets the framework for accessing public rights-of-way, poles, and that great and limited national resource; spectrum.

The agency, along with the rules it promulgates, and the statutes that give it authority, do not best promote a flexible and dynamic market. Free markets unleash communications technology and the innovation and dynamism that come along with it when incented by consumers that are willing and able to not only purchase communications goods and services and producers willing and able to develop and sell these goods and services.

It is the FCC’s attitude, as captured by the statement from Mr. Genachowski’s speech, which has it frequently on the precipice of picking winners and losers. Leave the technology development to the markets, FCC. The industry, its investors, and consumers will leave the FCC to regulate market entry on a minimal basis and ensure the acquisition of spectrum necessary for keeping consumers connected.