Award Winning Blog

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Ambivalently Federalist FCC

            With all this talk about draining the Washington, D.C. swamp and its entrenched federal government occupants, the FCC remains quite enamored with federal preemption of state and local initiatives. I cannot see a coherent rationale for depriving non-federal actors of their role as laboratories for innovative regulation and better, on-site agents.  Instead, the FCC--with increasing frequency--seems to embrace preemption more often than deference to states and municipalities.

            On the federalist side, Chairman Ajit Pai fiercely endorsed the right of states to regulate inmate intrastate calling rates, even if the rates reach extortionate levels.  The Chairman gladly defers to states that have enacted barriers or prohibitions on municipal Wi-Fi and fiber optic networks.  

            On the federal preemption side, both Democratic and Republican majorities at the FCC frequently foreclose state and local initiatives.  Sometimes preemption prevents extortionate behavior, such as when cities delay or condition market entry.  But other times, I wonder if the FCC takes a partisan stance rather than a principled one.

            I am onboard when the FCC attempts to expedite state and local administrative procedures in granting franchises, access to rights of way and necessary permits.  However, the FCC also wants to constrain, if not prohibit, non-federal involvement in such diverse matters as privacy, universal service funding and tower siting.  

            If state and local regulators are closer to the people and perhaps better versed in the issues, why is the FCC so keen on preventing them for serving?

No comments: