FCC Commissioner Baker Talks About Living With '96 Communications Act
November 18, 2010 at 4:13 AM (PT)
FCC Commissioner MEREDITH ATTWELL BAKER discussed the challenges of working within the Communications Act of 1996 in a speech to the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS BAR ASSOCIATION WEDNESDAY (11/17). BAKER, noting the call for wholesale overhaul of the act, instead proposed, "If proponents of full-scale rewrite urge divorce, I recommend counseling. This is simply pragmatism. In the Senate alone, the 96 Act required 31 hours of testimony, 11 days of hearings, and 86-plus witnesses. We have a ways to go. All of that said, I wholeheartedly agree with those seeking more global reform, and that the optimal path is for our elected officials to define the FCC’s role for the Internet Age. But I am afraid we will be operating under today’s structure for some time, and we need a better means to do so."
...we will be operating under todayâ€™s structure for some time, and we need a better means to do so...
BAKER suggested that while the 1996 law "fails to account for the Internet in a truly meaningful manner" and deals with areas, like long-distance telephone competition, that "essentially no longer exist," the "central purpose of the Act -- to promote cross-platform competition -- has been a remarkable success ... our governing statute has not foreclosed -- or at least not gotten too much in the way of -- a pretty amazing amount of technology and new innovation."
Living under the outdated Act, BAKER said, requires the FCC to focus on its own core competencies, specifically tackling spectrum reform; act incrementally, resisting "the urge to radically depart from our existing framework in an effort to engineer better results or specific flavors of competition"; provide better information, compiling more and better data; work collaboratively across government and industry, reaching out to industry to help address issues (with an example being having "content providers and distributors work more aggressively and more uniformly to educate parents and help them control and monitor the content available to children across the four screens now available in our homes"; and seeking targeted statutory authority from Congress.