I’m combing through the Federal Communications Commission’s 16th report on the state of competition in the wireless carrier industry and asking myself, why does the FCC always try to do exactly what it’s daddy tells them to do?
Yes, I know there is a statutory requirement that the FCC report on the status of wireless competition and I admit that I always expect them to not draw a definitive conclusion on whether or not the industry is enjoying effective competition even when there own data says that there is effective and robust competition; so effective and robust that the FCC had no problem approving the get together of T-Mobile and MetroPCS last week.
What gets me is the framework that the FCC uses to analyze not only the wireless industry but all of broadband in the first place. The FCC needs to make its analysis more meaningful by looking at the terrain the way an investor would; it needs to ascertain how well digital commerce is flowing given the state of the industries the agency regulates.
It should also let Congress know that current statutory requirements for this type of review are too narrow and is creating the temptation to apply more than a light touch regulatory scheme on communications in the United States.
The broadband industry, including wireless and wireline sectors, plays a crucial role in the flow of digital commerce. While I am not the biggest fan of Facebook, Zynga, MySpace, Pinterest, or any other machination of social networking per se, I acknowledge the current roles these companies play in moving digital commerce between producers of information and entertainment content and consumers of such. If I owned any shares in these companies or sat on their executive boards, my primary concern when it comes to regulation and the information superhighway would be, does the highway have potholes in it such that the flow from Angry Birds, Farmville, or any other e-commerce site is being hampered or hindered. Most of what the FCC has addressed in its 16th report has nothing to do with that major concern. Short of recent cyber attacks on a number of companies, and the pending spectrum crunch, the highway seems to be functioning smoothly.
What the FCC has forgotten that although it is charged with ensuring American households universal access to a communications network, the network doesn’t exist for the sake of existing. The private sector builders of this network have a business model to monetize and the producers that run up the most minutes of use on the legacy networks or generate the highest volume of data flow on its Internet protocol networks are concerned about the potholes and whether the FCC is adding to the size of any existing potholes by heavily regulating the carriers that move that traffic.
The report, while useful from an encyclopaedic perspective given the richness of information provided, doesn’t address commercial concerns. Commerce creates jobs. The innovative methods developed for moving traffic on the highway creates jobs. It’s time for the FCC to use a different type of lens when assessing the industry. It should assess its role in commerce, not the industry for the sake of the industry.