FCCs McDowell Pushes Free Markets

The newest commissioner explains his plans for his FCC term.

WASHINGTON—FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell met with reporters Aug. 8 to explain his thoughts and concerns regarding issues he expects to come before the Federal Communications Commission over the next several years.

During a press conference, the commissioner said that he believes strongly in the power of the marketplace, and that he believes that consumers have the power to make communications providers deliver what they want.

He also said he believes that there is a role for government when the market fails to deliver desired results, but he said that he wanted that role to be limited in scope and time.

/zimages/4/128936.gifHear this: FCC Commissioner McDowell talks with reporters about what is driving innovation.

McDowell said that one force that is going to shape his tenure at the FCC is consumer demand for "… the full content of their choice, through the pipe of their choice, at the time and place of their choosing, and to manipulate that content or create their own."

He said he wants to facilitate that demand, and remove any barriers to entry and any unnecessary "regulatory underbrush."

"I think that technical innovation and competition will help solve the challenges that may face America economically or on social issues."

He said he wanted to see the FCC create an environment to allow the necessary interconnected delivery platforms such innovation would need.

Saying that he supports the FCCs principles on net neutrality, McDowell said: "I call it a Rorschach term. Its a matter of where you sit as to what that term means."

He said he is also worried about the FCC taking steps to add more regulation.

"Its difficult for the government to prophylactically address an illness that has not yet occurred," he said.

"Its like the French goalie during the World Cup shootout that kept diving to the left when the balls were going to the right," he explained in an analogy. "Does the government want to be the French goalie?"

McDowell suggested that the FCC be vigilant, but that the best course of action is to simply wait and see what happens.

"That consumer demand I talked about in my opening remarks is a terrifically powerful check and balance."

He said that if a network owner were to prevent users from plugging in on the content side or the consumer side, that the owners would go out of business.

"They do so at their peril," he said. "Dont you think that if you couldnt get to Google, there would be torches and pitchforks in the street, and government policy would change overnight?"

McDowell also said that its important to decide where you draw the line between legitimate network management issues and what could be called discriminatory anti-competitive practices. "Well watch and wait and be vigilant," he said.

Addressing the wireless industry, McDowell said that its been a terrific model of competition.

"Prices have gone down, functionality has gone up," he said, noting that there is now more than one cell phone for every person in America.

In his remarks, McDowell addressed issues including decency on the airwaves, station ownership, and the vital issue of the carriage of Washington Nationals baseball games by Comcast.

His defense of free markets was a constant theme, and he said that he believed that the force of the market would create the means for more ways to access content on the Internet and elsewhere.

McDowell began his term on June 1. He was previously a telephone company executive, and because of that he said he has declined to be involved to date in phone company merger approvals.

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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...