TOPIC: Federal Communications Commission

How the revolving door leads to weak regulation

You’ve heard about the FCC commissioner, Meredith Baker, who has taken a job with NBC Universal (as senior VP for government affairs, of course) just four months after voting to approve the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal.  Then there’s the the too-cozy relationship between regulators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the power companies they are supposed to regulate, because many employees at the NRC are aiming to land top jobs in industry when they leave government service.  And let’s not forget that beyond-cozy relationships in the oil and gas regulation business helped create a culture of permissiveness that made catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon explosion more likely. (more…)

Corporate lobbyists use sweeteners to win over regulators

There’s more than political donations or legions of arm-twisting lobbyists in the Washington lobbying toolbox.  Sometimes, there’s a status symbol cupcake, as Edward Wyatt reported in the New York Times.  With AT&T facing what would appear to be a formidable task of convincing the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department to approve its proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile, one wonders if the company will be strategically delivering chocolate Easter eggs to the regulators this time around.  Wyatt likened the delivery of the sought-after cupcakes to offices within the FCC during holiday season to a military operation.  The breakdown of who got how many cupcakes was labeled “proprietary.” (more…)

A Bumpy Ride on the Internet Access Highway: the FCC’s Net Neutrality Decision

Around many of America’s largest cities, high occupancy toll lanes offer drivers the option of paying to get to their destination faster.  Similarly, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner are gatekeepers to broadband Internet access lanes and have the ability assign priority lanes — with better quality and faster speeds — to those who pay a premium.  The ISPs also have an incentive to provide slower access and to block services that compete with their telephone and video services. Advocates for Internet neutrality – a term that connotes different things to different people – want the government to step in to ensure that Internet users (both subscribers and companies that work on the Internet) will have access to the services and applications they choose without interference.

In December, the Federal Communications Commission waded into the net neutrality debate, where Congress has thus far feared to tread, when it voted 3-2 to establish rules to preserve open Internet access.  With over 100,000 comments filed in the leadup to the FCC decision, it’s clear that the public is concerned about the future of access to the Internet. (more…)

Broadband access: American public not so broad minded

Some people who don’t use broadband think they’re not missing much. But for those whose homes, libraries, public safety networks and healthcare facilities will have broadband access because of the $1.8 billion the government awarded last week, it will make a huge difference.

One of the larger of the 94 broadband projects funded last week – $28.8 million to Peoples Telephone Cooperative (PTC) in eastern Texas – will connect as many as 190 community institutions to broadband, benefitting as many as 241,000 people and 10,300 businesses, and creating an estimated 100 jobs.

The grants and loans announced last week are only a portion of the $7 billion (more…)

Rad phone

Leapfrogging over federal regulators, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval to rules requiring retailers to post radiation exposure ratings for each handset model offered for sale, reports Rachel Gordon of the San Francisco Chronicle.

There’s a huge variation between the hundreds of models available, ranging from handsets like the (more…)

News about the news

Will the Tribune Company get waivers from the Federal Communications Commission once the company leaves Chapter 11 bankruptcy? Lynne Marek of Crain’s Chicago Business reports that a group of Chicago media advocacy organizations filed a petition with the FCC this week arguing that the agency should no longer let the Trib own two TV stations in one city.

Advocacy groups have petitioned the FCC about the Trib for years. (more…)

For Now, Comcast a Benevolent Ruler

A federal appeals court struck a blow for net neutrality yesterday, but, for now at least, the ruling shouldn’t impact how we use the internet. (more…)

A Series of Underregulated Tubes

Verizon and Comcast are energetically lobbying to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from regulating broadband. The Washington Post’s Cecilla Kang reports that the FCC is strongly considering whether to reclassify broadband internet service as “a common service carrier,” which means that broadband service providers would be regulated in the same way the FCC polices telephone companies. (more…)

True Fact: Government Agencies Cooperating

By Marci Greenstein

National Institutes of Health chief, Dr. Frances Collins was talking up his agency’s partnership with the Food and Drug Administration on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show last week.  The move is intended to speed up the process for getting drugs from laboratories to the marketplace.  What’s surprising is that this collaboration hasn’t happened sooner.  How often have we heard about patients desperate to get drugs that are successful in clinical trials but are moving at a snail’s pace through the FDA’s regulatory maze? (more…)

Business: Make Media-Ownership Rules More Business Friendly

The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Schatz has an interesting dispatch from a Federal Communications Commission workshop yesterday where media investors said the time is now for the FCC to loosen their restrictions on media consolidation. At issue, is whether to lift or modify the cross-ownership ban, which means that if you own a TV station you can’t own a newspaper or radio station. Investors argue that with newspaper and broadcast media losing tons of money consolidation could rescue these businesses. Perhaps more compellingly, another pro-consolidation argument is that thanks to the internet local ownership of, say, both the local newspaper and local news is no longer leads to a monopoly on information.