FCC's Powell Takes Telecom Policy To Task At Supercomm

FCC Chairman says current legislative and regulatory environment does not reflect realities of next generation networking.

June 23, 2004

2 Min Read
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The great hall was packed, and the mood was friendly toward FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. Even he admitted that he was "preaching to the choir" at last evening's keynote session of Supercomm. The message from the chairman was simple. The burden of proof on taking regulatory action should be on the FCC -- not industry -- and that he wants to be associated with movements that encourage the deployment of new innovative digital services that enhance the quality of life of consumers, and the operational efficiencies of the private sector.

Working against these aims, he said, is a legislative and regulatory framework that is rooted in a highly segmented past, and which does not provide much guidance on how to manage current technological developments.

"We [at the FCC in particular, but government in general] are pretty good at looking at the past and understanding it. But we are not so good about anticipating the future," he said.

He added that much of the confusion about how to deal with new converged network technologies and services are rooted in a Telecom Act of 1996 that prescribes rules according to media delivery types.

"If you open up the Telecom Act of 1996 you will see chapters on common carriers in local and long distance markets, broadcasters, cable. But the Act does not entertain what should occur when players in one arena start offering services in a another, using technology that was not even conceived at the time the Act was written."That is why, from a philosophical standpoint, the FCC Chairman says he is against an overly active regulatory agency that plays a high profile role in the market. He pointed out that this was as true for the federal government as it is for state and local governments -- many of which are making moves to regulate various aspects of the Internet.

"We [government officials] are not the entrepreneurs, the risk takers, the investors that have made the information age happen. You are," he told the audience. "We just need to make sure there are fair rules and that people abide by them." That said, he asserted that those who do cheat and break the rules should be punished to the full extent of the law, adding that he had no scruples about prosecuting aggressively.

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