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FCC chairman: Agency needs to police broadband competition

The agency has a role to play in promoting and regulating broadband, Genachowski says

By Grant Gross
September 25, 2012 02:40 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission needs to be a "cop on the beat" to ensure mobile and broadband competition across the country, the agency's chairman said Tuesday.

The FCC must resist calls for the agency to phase out nearly all regulation of broadband and mobile carriers, Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a speech at Vox Media, a digital publisher. "Competition is the lifeblood of our free-market economy, driving private investment, innovation and consumer value," he said. "The more competition, the less need for regulation."

The FCC needs to continue to "fairly and rigorously" review all mergers and acquisitions in the telecom industry and consider all options, including divestitures, conditions and outright blocking deals, Genachowski said.

Genachowski noted that some groups say the FCC should have little authority in the broadband and mobile industries. He didn't name names, but AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications, along with some conservative lawmakers, have questioned the FCC's authority in recent years. On the other side, some consumer and digital rights groups have criticized the FCC for not taking a more active role in blocking mergers and other deals, particularly Verizon's recent purchase of wireless spectrum from four cable providers.

"Some say government has no role to play here," Genachowski said. "Some say government should just eliminate existing rules and policies on its way out the door. As someone who's spent more than a decade in the private sector and believes fundamentally in the power of the free market, I disagree with that view."

Pro-broadband government policies can help drive U.S. broadband service forward, he said. "Government has a role to play -- limited but vital," he said. "Light touch, not no touch."

Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff billed Genachowski's speech as a major policy address, but the chairman spent much of his time talking about what he sees as past broadband successes and outlining general challenges moving forward. Several people watching the speech on Livestream questioned whether he offered any new proposals.

"To sum up, Internet and bandwidth are important," one Livestream user said.

Genachowski pointed to these successes in his four years as chairman: The U.S. has gone from lagging in 3G mobile rollout in 2008 to leading the world in 4G deployment in 2012. The U.S. has 69 percent of the world's LTE subscribers, and more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones sold today run on operating systems developed in the U.S., he said

"The United States has become the global test bed for LTE apps and services," he said.

In addition, wired broadband networks have made large increases in capacity, he said. In 2009, networks capable of delivering 100 Mbps service passed 20 percent of U.S. households, but today, they pass 80 percent, he said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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