FCC Seeks Input on Telecom Competition

The FCC is seeking input on how competitive the telecommunications marketplace is and what to do about it. The deregulatory Republican contingent on the commission are already urging more than lip service to statute they read as requiring the FCC to seriously review all those regs and excise any no longer necessary.

That "seeking" came in a public notice Thursday asking for comment on the 2016 Biennial Review of Telecommunication Regulations.

Comments are due Dec. 5 and replies Jan. 3, 2017.

The FCC is required by statute to survey the regulations that apply to the providers of telecommunications service every two years to determine whether they are "no longer necessary in the public interest as the result of meaningful economic competition between providers of such service."

The FCC is directed by Congress to "repeal or modify" any regs that are no longer in the public interest.

The plan is for each bureau to issue a report within four months of the reply comment deadline, which would be May, then issue Notices of Proposed Rulemakings to repeal or modify anything that needs it within five months after that or sometime in October 2017.

Republican commissioner Ajit Pai was not optimistic that the review would result in much repealing.

He points out that the FCC did not release a 2014 biennial review and suggested the latest effort "promises a few desultory efforts at paging through the Code of Federal Regulations—efforts certain to result in many staff hours being wasted and nothing meaningful being done."

Fellow Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly, a former Hill staffer who worked on the 1996 Telecommunications Act (which requires the telecom competition report), said punting on the 2014 report was inexcusable. "Depressing as it may be," he said, "there seems to be no penalty for the Commission just ignoring statutory deadlines on its own whim," he said.

O'Rielly also took aim at the time frame of nearly a year before any NPRMs. He said he did not see the FCC being done with the 2016 until 2018, when the next biennial is to be done. In a statement on the public notice, O'Rielly suggested cutting the bureau review time to two months.

He also said there should be "extensive recommendations culminating in a forward-looking NPRM," with every rule thoroughly vetted and likely a "good portion" eliminated.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.