The Next FCC Chair: Decisive Protector of the Public Interest
The Next FCC Chair: Decisive Protector of the Public Interest
The Next FCC Chair: Decisive Protector of the Public Interest

    Get Involved Today

    Even though current FCC Chair Julius Genachowski has not
    announced that he is leaving, there is still much talk about who is being
    considered to be his successor.  In its
    never-ending fascination with the horse race of politics, the trade press has
    been throwing out names of the supposed frontrunners every few weeks or

    But this focus on names is premature.  Before we talk about who will be the next FCC
    Chair, there needs to be a conversation on the qualities the ideal candidate
    should possess.  Because the issues and
    controversies that will come before the Commission over the next four years
    will be no less contentious than in the previous four.   

    The next Chair will preside over matters such as the
    transition to all IP networks, finalizing the incentive auction and spectrum
    screen proceedings, figuring out how to promote broadband competition, and of course, how to
    reinstate the agency’s authority (and indeed its relevance) should it lose the legal challenge to the open
    Internet rules.  This is in addition to
    whatever transactions the Commission may be asked to decide by industry.

    Is Comfortable as a

    So what qualities should the next FCC Chair possess? First
    and foremost, the individual must be comfortable in the role of a regulator.  This should not be taken to mean that the
    Chair should seek to regulate every industry out the yin-yang.  But it does mean that where it is necessary
    to promote competition and/or protect consumers, the Chair must act, and
    decisively, with the understanding that in many regulatory battles there are
    winners and losers.  And yes, that action should also include deregulation, particularly where regulations protect
    incumbents at the expense of competition.

    A sound regulator also keeps fights out of the White House.  As important as those of us in the telecom
    bubble think these issues are, for a President dealing with more fiscal cliffs
    and budget ceilings in front of him, agitation to pass laws governing gun
    control, immigration reform, and climate change, communications policy issues just
    don’t rate.  And that’s why we have an
    independent FCC – to protect the public interest in those matters.

    Understands the Role
    of Congress

    The next FCC Chair needs also to understand the role of
    Congress, and that body’s limitations given how sharply divided it is.  Let’s get real – an Obama FCC Chair is going
    to get pounded by the House telecom subcommittee and the full energy and
    commerce committee much of the time.  The
    House may even vote to overrule decisions, like it did in 2011 with the resolution
    of disapproval on the open Internet rules. 
    But the Senate, with more Democrats, a number of whom are very
    progressive, will not allow this FCC to be overruled.  So there is no need for the next Chair to
    negotiate with herself in the fear that Congress will undo what it has
    done.   This is not to say that the next Chair should
    thumb her nose at Congress – Congress is a critical partner for an agency to
    accomplish its goals.  But the next Chair
    needs to recognize that it will be up to the FCC to be the ultimate decider of
    the difficult questions that will come before it.

    Seeks Greater Public

    The next Chair must keep the promise of the Obama
    administration to involve the public in policymaking.  Since the current Chair took office, there
    have been only a handful of field hearings.  That must
    change.  The public input in matters like
    network neutrality, the proposed merger of AT&T-T-Mobile, SOPA and PIPA,
    shows that ordinary citizens care deeply about the future of our communication
    system.  Not only is seeking real public
    input good government, it also provides a means by which the next Chair (much
    like the President himself) can build support for his initiatives. 

    Is Dedicated to the Institution’s Role as Defender of the Public Interest

    You may have noticed that I haven’t as yet mentioned
    substance.  It will surprise no one that
    we believe that the next FCC Chair must be dedicated to and willing to act to
    promote, among other things, an open Internet free of gatekeepers, vibrant
    fixed and mobile broadband competition, universal broadband access and
    affordability, robust video competition, and a mix of spectrum dedicated both
    to unlicensed and licensed uses.  These
    are all principles that formed the basis for candidate Obama’s technology

    On the question of whether the next FCC Chair should be female or male, I have been public that it is past time for an almost 80 year old agency to be led by a woman.  And without a doubt there are a number of women in the field who possess the qualities described above.  But regardless of gender, first and foremost, whoever is ultimately chosen must have the fortitude to defend the institution and its role as the protector of the public interest.  The American people
    deserve nothing less.