NCTA Chief Calls for FCC Gutting
In delivering a keynote to The Media Institute in Washington, D.C., McSlarrow suggested a proposal that would alter the FCC's role to a consumer oversight agency more akin to that of the Federal Trade Commission , particularly as competition heats up and new broadband services proliferate.
In that scenario, McSlarrow said, "The FCC would have authority to intervene in the marketplace only if it determines that marketplace competition would not adequately protect consumers against unfair methods of competition or unfair and deceptive practices."
McSlarrow said his view on sunset for FCC regulations closely mirrors the "Digital Age Communications Act" set forth by the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF), a D.C.-based think tank. According to the PFF, its underlying philosophy "combines an appreciation for the positive impacts of technology with a classically conservative view of the proper role of government."
McSlarrow, citing the aims of the PFF Working Group, suggests that the "regulator would act principally through adjudication, responding as antritrust authorities do, to correct abuses as they occur, largely eliminating the elaborate web of rules and regulations that has grown up under the existing statute."
In staging his argument for reform, McSlarrow said older statutes and the current Communications Act are greatly outdated because competition exists and the number of services offered by those competitors continues to expand. Those legacy statutes, he added, "generally presumed that service providers were single-product monopolies whose anticompetitive tendencies could only be controlled by significant and ongoing government oversight."
An FCC spokeswoman said the agency had no comment on McSlarrow's remarks.
However, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin did attempt to clear the air a bit in a speech delivered last week in Las Vegas at The Cable Show.
Martin, who has been a thorn in cable's side by pushing hard on issues such as à la carte and digital must-carry, told the pro-cable crowd that suggestions that he is anti-cable are unfair, because he does not automatically pick sides but views and acts upon issues through a neutral lens.
"When a regulatory issue comes before me, my first instinct is to pick the action that will help facilitate and promote competition, innovation, and consumer choice," he said at the time. "As a result, this means that sometimes my policies favor the cable industry – as they typically do when it is a matter of entry into new markets like the voice market. And, sometimes they do not – when it is an issue of someone else's entry into the video market."
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News