FCC accused of unfairly aiding some firms — pdf
From giant phone companies to small consumer advocates, the Federal Communications Commission is supposed to treat every group equally. But congressional investigators have found some companies and trade groups have received special treatment.
FCC officials tipped them off to confidential information about when regulators planned to vote on important issues — a clear violation of agency rules that provided an unfair lobbying advantage, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office to be released today. Other interested parties — generally consumer and public-interest groups — did not get such favorable treatment, the report said.
“It is critical that FCC maintain an environment in which all stakeholders have an equal opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process and that the process is perceived as fair and transparent,” the report said. “Situations where some, but not all, stakeholders know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of FCC’s rules.”
Markey’s subcommittee had a notable hearing yesterday: Digital Future of the United States: Part VI: The Future of Telecommunications Competition — Markey’s press release/opening statement (pdf) is certainly inflammatory:
It’s as if the FCC several years ago picked up a loose football on the field after a collision and started running with the ball full speed toward the wrong end zone. Our international competitors look on at what we’re doing and must be stunned. That’s because we started this Internet game ranked #1 in the world because we invented it and now we’re number 15th. People quibble with the methodology of the OECD rankings, but regardless of how you slice it – price, speed, percentage of subscribers – the U.S. is no longer in the top tier and we continue to drop.
Many other Nations took one look at our broadband situation, learned from our experience, and took the opposite approach. Japan and U.K. implemented the very policies that the FCC had gradually eliminated in recent years, such as local loop unbundling and broadband resale, which facilitate competition using the incumbent’s plant, regardless of technology. These foreign competitors are now enjoying broadband success stories.
The United States, however, continues taking the opposite approach. We’re digging ourselves a hole and we’re now in violation of the First Law of Holes, which is, if you’re in one, stop digging.
Local copy of the GAO Report: FCC Should Take Steps to Ensure Equal Access to Rulemaking Information