Section 7 of the Communications Act (47 USC 157) has been law since 1983. It states:
157. New technologies and services
(a) It shall be the policy of the United States to encourage the provision of new technologies and services to the public. Any person or party (other than the Commission) who opposes a new technology or service proposed to be permitted under this chapter shall have the burden to demonstrate that such proposal is inconsistent with the public interest.
(b) The Commission shall determine whether any new technology or service proposed in a petition or application is in the public interest within one year after such petition or application is filed. If the Commission initiates its own proceeding for a new technology or service, such proceeding shall be completed within 12 months after it is initiated.
Unfortunately, the Commission has tried very hard the last 28 years to avoid this piece of legislation which admittedly is less than perfect. This week, IEEE-USA which advances the public policy interests of 210,000 engineering, computing and technology professionals who are U.S. members of IEEE, wrote FCC on the need for Section 7 guidelines at FCC.
The IEEE-USA letter pointed out that FCC has timeliness guidelines for both merger reviews and Section 10(c) forbearance petitions, yet has no guidance at all on how it implements the timeliness mandate of Section 7.
Mitchell Lazarus, a private lawyer active in wireless technology rulemakings at FCC, has pointed out in his personal comments in Docket 09-157 (Wireless Innovation NOI) that even noncontroversial wireless rule changes to allow innovative technology often take years to get adopted and frequently prospective clients give up when confronted with this reality. While this may be acceptable and even desireable to the “spectrum haves” or incumbents, it has a chilling effect on the capital formation that is an essential compenent of wireless innovation.
If the Commission does not like the way Section 7 is written, it can always ask Congress to revise it or delete it. I am not aware that it has even done so. But since it is “on the books”, maybe after 28 years FCC should pay some attention to it and not treat wireless innovation as a “stepchild”.