The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The God of Communications is Alive and Well at the FCC

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is doing his best to emulate Mercury, the God of Communications, whose portfolio also covered commerce and transportation.  (He was also known as a trickster and guided people into the Underworld.)

The chairman has imposed ancient communications laws on the Internet, usurped the Federal Trade Commission’s role on privacy enforcement, and now wants to undermine intellectual property rights by holding and issuing copyrights to creators and owners of licensed broadcast material. 

The latest power grab by the freaking certifiably crazy (FCC) agency began with a capricious notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate the technical aspects of set-top boxes under the guise of increasing competition.  The proposal blatantly ignored new technology that will eventually eliminate the need for the boxes, as well as existing copyright law and contractual agreements between copyright owners and licensees. 

As the proposal generated protests from the left and the right, including his fellow commissioners from both sides of the political aisle, the chairman stuck out his fickle finger of fate and decided to propose an alternative to the set-top box idea and create a copyright office within the FCC.  This moody move was likely part of a temperamental tirade against the U.S. Copyright Office, which made quite clear that the original set-top box proposal would harm copyright owners and licensees.  Only the mercurial Chairman Wheeler can believe that he can do a better job than an office that has operated in this arena for more than 200 years.

Telecommunications is a vital cog in the U.S. economy.  There is no room for erratic, unpredictable, and inconsistent policies, particularly from an agency that is led by someone who has become so intoxicated by power that he ignores the facts.  The cable industry is moving away from set-top box rentals, on which companies lose money, and developing app-based alternatives that will enable consumers to access their television subscriptions any time, any place, on any device.  Indeed, the industry provided the FCC with a sound alternative to the set-top box regime proposed by the agency earlier this year, which was completely ignored.

Chairman Wheeler may indeed be Mercury reincarnated:  He is guiding the telecommunications industry into a netherworld of confusing regulations that will eventually snuff out and suffocate innovation, leaving consumers and taxpayers in purgatory.

 

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