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The FCC's Positive Policy Pivot?

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski signaled a major FCC policy pivot Monday, from a fourteen-month focus on regulating net neutrality to apparently a new singular focus on "the economy and jobs" -- in his annual speech before NARUC, the association of state utility regulators.

 

  • (Kudos to Randy May of the Free State Foundation for flagging this very significant policy shift in his outstanding post.)

 

Takeaways from the FCC Chairman's speech.

First, this is a very significant speech to pay attention to, because the FCC is laying out what the states can expect from the FCC in the year ahead.

  • In other words, what the FCC Chairman tells the states that the FCC will focus on, (and not focus on by what he does not mention) lays out the general practical parameters of the FCC Chairman's policy vision.
  • Politically it is also a good and reliable guidepost for the FCC's latest policy thinking, because the FCC does not want to blindside or whipsaw NARUC on major policy matters.

Second, it is highly noteworthy that in this speech the FCC Chairman did not speak the words "net neutrality," "free and open Internet," "Third Way" or "Title II re-classification," given that that policy vocabulary dominated the FCC Chairman's lexicon for the last fourteen months.

  • The omissions were likely purposeful; and the silence speaks volumes.
  • This strongly suggests that the Chairman has read the latest political tea leaves and decided to pivot from the FCC's extremely controversial open Internet regulation policy focus -- to a more bipartisan policy focus around the National Broadband Plan consensus of getting broadband to unserved Americans.

 

Third, this NARUC speech is the strongest public evidence to date that the FCC Chairman effectively has abandoned his proposed "Third Way Title II Re-classification"plans that would have regulated currently unregulated Internet information services like regulated telephone  networks.

  • Many don't appreciate that one of the very messy complications of any FCC Title II broadband regulation would have been to undo the FCC's exclusive Federal jurisdiction over the Internet and enable the 50 states to price regulate the broadband Internet.
  • Given how intimately state regulators would have had to be involved in implementing the effective brain surgery of regulating the broadband Internet, this speech is very strong evidence that the FCC Chairman no longer wants to go there.

 

Fourth, the speech implies a major shift in the FCC's recognition of how much broadband competition actually exists.

 

  • Remember the Open Internet speech assumed that broadband competition was insufficient to protect openness/net neutrality, and that new FCC regulation was necessary to promote more broadband competition to ensure Internet openness.
  • It is telling that this speech was silent on there not being sufficient competition, and was replete with more free market friendly references: "catalyze private investment," "foster job creation," "cut red tape," etc.

 

Finally, the Chairman's speech appears to signal an end to the FreePress-inspired pro-regulation mantra that the "U.S. is falling behind in broadband," because the FCC Chairman said in his NARUC speech: "The U.S. is leading the way in 4G, and we need to be sure we maintain that lead."

In sum, hopefully this is a watershed policy speech by the FCC Chairman, which returns the FCC to the more bipartisan, consensus, and market forces approach to broadband Internet policy of the past.

 

  • It now looks like the FCC is no longer interested in listening to the radical FreePress siren song to regulate net neutrality in the absence of a problem and to ignore the need to focus on spurring private investment and private sector job creation.

 

It is very encouraging to hear the FCC Chairman declare in a major FCC policy speech that the FCC's "primary focus is simple: the economy and jobs."

 

 

Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths