Wiley: Communications Law Must Be Flexible

Former FCC chairman Dick Wiley says the problem with communications law is not a failure of Congress or of FCC "vision," but that the government has a tough time writing laws and regulations that can keep pace with changing technology.

According to Wiley's testimony for a Jan. 15 House Communications Subcommittee hearing on communications law reform, he suggests that the subcommittee's planned rewrite of the Communications Act should not be premised on predictions of what the market may look like in the future, but instead be a "flexible and technologically neutral framework" that can adapt to whatever comes.

He also advocates for a light touch, using for one example the video streaming marketplace that is competing against traditional MVPDs with new ways to consumer video. "This marketplace is emerging because of innovation and competition, not due to government regulation."

Wiley offered up four key principles that he thinks should guide a draft bill.

1. "The industry silos embedded in the 1996 Act should be abolished and, instead, functionally equivalent services should be treated in the same manner, regardless of who provides them or how they are delivered to consumers."

2. "The traditional dichotomy between interstate and intrastate services should be eliminated because regulatory classifications based on geographical end points no longer make sense in an IP environment."

3. "Legislation should be focused on maintaining consumer protection and public safety regulations.  Conversely, economic regulations should be considered in the case of non-competitive markets or in the event of demonstrated market failure."

4. "New regulations should be instituted with a lighter touch, accompanied by sunset provisions so that the rationale for continued government intervention can be reviewed on a regular basis."

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.