Category Archives: Regulatory Reform

How the FCC “Rigs the Game” for Broadband Regulation Under Section 706…

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Over the last several years, we have seen the Federal Communications Commission put forth a rather clever argument to expand its regulatory authority over broadband services.  The argument goes basically like this:  Under Section 706(a) of the Communications Act, the Commission “shall encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans … by utilizing … price cap regulation, regulatory forbearance, measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.”  As part of its mandate, Section 706(b) requires the Commission to conduct a regular Continue Reading »

Art Laffer and the Effect of Government Stimulus on Jobs and Investment…

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This week, noted economist Arthur Laffer wrote an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled The Real “Stimulus” Record.  In this piece, Dr. Laffer argues that before policymakers in Washington again try yet another round of stimulus spending in an ostensible attempt to mitigate high unemployment and poor growth rates, they should remember that President Obama’s first stimulus package did not exactly meet with great success.  As support for his argument, Dr. Laffer cites the facts that while stimulus spending over the past five years totaled more than $4 trillion, increasing  U.S. Federal government spending from 21.4% to 27.3% Continue Reading »

New Congressional Staff Report Shows Job Creators Still Buried by Regulatory Red Tape…

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This week, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform released a new Staff Report entitled Continuing Oversight of Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation:  Job Creators Still Buried by Red Tape. Among other significant data, the Staff Report found that: From 2010 to 2011, the number of final rules issued by federal agencies rose from 3,573 to 3,807—a 6.5 percent increase.  During that same time frame, the number of proposed rules increased 18.8 percent; The published regulatory burden for 2012 could exceed $105 billion, according to the American Action Forum, headed by a former director of the Congressional Budget Office; Continue Reading »

Some Thoughts on this Week’s FCC Oversight Hearing…

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This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission.  As to be expected, the issues covered ranged far and wide, demonstrating once again the diversity, multitude and complexity of issues pending before policymakers.  While I have no intention of commenting on them all in this blog post, I would like to highlight a few observations. First and foremost, it was a pleasure to watch new FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai answer questions with both thoughtfulness and, more importantly, significant substantive knowledge about the complexities of our industry.  Both have certainly Continue Reading »

How the Retransmission Fight May Affect MVPD Industry Structure…

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One of the growing hot-button issues of late has been the fight between programming networks (including traditional broadcast networks) and multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”) over retransmission fees.  As we have seen with increasing frequency, as a programming carriage contract expiration deadline looms larger, either the MVPD pays up, or the channel goes dark.  Just this week, DirecTV just dropped a whopping SEVENTEEN channels owned by Viacom—running the full gamut from MTV to Comedy Central—from their lineup when the parties failed to reach a commercial agreement. In retaliation, Viacom pulled much of their coveted programming from free Internet outlets.  Needless Continue Reading »

Well, this is interesting…

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Earlier this month, the trade press reported that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was circulating an order among his fellow Commissioners that not only would re-evaluate how the agency de-regulates special access services provided by incumbent local exchange companies (“ILECs”) but would also “temporarily suspend consideration of pricing flexibility pending the development of as new framework.”  In a recent blog, Phoenix Center Chief Economist George Ford criticized this plan, arguing that the admitted failure of regulation is not a valid reason to suspend deregulation, and that this “regulate first mentality” threatens investment in the industry.  As George stated, “the agency’s decision Continue Reading »

What is the Effect of Regulation on Investment?

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What is the effect of regulation on investment?  At a high level of abstraction, it is impossible to say.  Rate-of-return regulation, for example, is criticized by economists for possibly encouraging too much investment—a principle known as the Averch-Johnson Effect.  On the other hand, if a firm fears that the regulator will alter the rules in a way that reduces the ability to earn profits on large, long-term capital investments, then the incentive to make such investments is reduced.  Importantly, the issue is not, as some claim, just about “regulatory uncertainty.”  There could be great uncertainty about future rule changes, but Continue Reading »

More Evidence on the Failure of Government “Stimulus”…

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Last week, there was sad story in the Washington Times reporting that the District of Columbia has received more than $855 million in federal economic stimulus funds since 2009, but that this spending had not been shown to produce any significant improvement in the city’s jobs outlook.  As a third-generation Washingtonian, it would be easy for me to blame the failure of federal stimulus to actually do any stimulating on the congenital dysfunction of the D.C. Government.  Instead, I think the lesson learned here is that despite its intentions, government stimulus just isn’t that helpful in creating new private sector Continue Reading »

Curbing the FCC’s Ability to Impose “Voluntary” Merger Commitments…

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Over my eighteen years in the telecommunications business, one of my biggest pet peeves has been the politicization of the Federal Communication Commission’s merger review process.  As I noted in a paper entitled Separating Politics from Policy in FCC Merger Reviews: A Basic Legal Primer of the “Public Interest” Standard I authored with my former colleague Tom Koutsky back in 2007 and subsequently published in an academic journal in 2010, my issue is not that the concept of the “public interest” is vague (it is not), but that both sides of the aisle conveniently ignore the relevant caselaw when it Continue Reading »

Thoughts About Today’s Oversight Hearing on the FCC’s Budget and Spending…

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Earlier today, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing on entitled “The Budget and Spending of the Federal Communications Commission.”  Given the growing size of the federal bureaucracy, conducting this sort of oversight is indeed welcome news. In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Greg Walden noted that “Last year, the FCC was given a budget of $424.8 million, and the FCC has reported that it can maintain current services with a budget of $421.2 million.  Although that’s less than a one percent decrease, it’s a start, and I appreciate the Continue Reading »