A spokesman for the cable industry has endorsed the notion that the FCC should be downgraded to night-watchman status over the next five years. As envisioned by Kyle McSlarrow, President of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Commission would ultimately be left to tend to consumer protection, much like the FTC.
McSlarrow was commenting in support of a D.C. think tank’s proposal along the same lines.
According to McSlarrow, communications industries are all hotly competitive, and the miracle of the marketplace will control competitors more effectively than an intrusive regulatory body. The FCC-Lite he envisions would be able to grind into action only if it determined that competition was not "adequately protect[ing] consumers against unfair methods of competition or unfair and deceptive practices."
In McSlarrow’s view, there are two types of folks in the world: (1) those (like him) who believe that the market can effectively regulate without a bunch of nattering bureaucrats imposing picayune make-work chores on marketplace participants; and (2) those who see a perpetual need for government intervention in such areas as "must-carry regimes", "so-called open or forced network access" or "a la carte" program options.
This is not the first time that an industry within the FCC’s purview has suggested that the agency’s authority should be watered down. In the past, though, the call has been to limit the Commission to purely technical regulation. McSlarrow seems to be urging a different tack, more focused on consumer protection. But if the FCC dons the mantle of Protector of Consumers, what will the FTC – or Ralph Nader, for that matter – wear?