WASHINGTON — Commissioner Ajit Pai wants the Federal Communications Commission to move beyond 20th-century legacy regulation in an increasingly Internet- protocol-delivered communications world, starting with closing the Title II docket.
Chairman Julius Genachowski has said the docket — the agency’s initial proposal to regulate Internet access under some Title II common-carrier regulations — would remain open as an aid to Congress.
Some industry players see that as a fallback position in case a federal appeals court throws out the FCC’s compromise approach to its Open Internet order.
Speaking at a Communications Liberty and Innovation Project (CLIP) panel discussion on the transition to IP-delivery last week, Pai said a regulatory model based on monopolists with copper wire no longer cuts it.
SEE THE SHIFT
If the FCC wants to free up some of the investment capital sitting on the sidelines due to regulatory uncertainty, he said, it should recognize the technology shift and adjust its regulation accordingly.
Closing the Title II docket, he said, would signal to the marketplace that the FCC was not going to apply a Back to the Future approach.
He credited Genachowski for doing that in the shift of Universal Service Fund subsidies from phone service to broadband provision, but said that was just one piece of the puzzle.
Pai also put in a pitch for cutting through the maze of regulation at the local level.
He cited Google Fiber, pointing out that Kansas City, Kan., only won the right to be Google’s video/broadband testbed because the city pledged to streamline its rights of way policies and permitting process.
It should not take a nationwide competition to cut through that maze, Pai said.
He also opined that it should not take years for AT&T to be able to deploy U-Verse in San Francisco.
On that topic, Pai commended California Gov. Jerry Brown for signing legislation limiting IP regulations, saying that should be a model at the federal level.
Jeff Silva, senior policy director, telecommunications, at Medley Global Advisors LLC, said he agreed with Pai that too many regulatory disincentives will chill broadband investment and take a toll on the economy.
Pai and panelists agreed that baseline consumer protections, like e-911 service, need to remain. But economic regulations need revision — and, ultimately, the Communications Act of 1996 needs to be rewritten.
Pai suggested that the FCC create an IP transition task force to help modernize its network regulations.
Public-interest advocacy group Free Press, which fought for network-neutrality regulation, said Pai’s claims about applying common-carriage rules to the Internet distorted the reality of the marketplace for consumers.
“The principles that undergird common carriage are not outdated,” Free Press policy director Matt Wood said. “They are incredibly important and are directly responsible for producing the Internet revolution.
“We need regulators to understand that new technology is not a magical solution to the natural monopoly problems inherent in communications networks,” Wood added. “The transition to new transmission technologies didn’t alter the fundamental reality that the wires and channels carrying our communications are sold in a near-monopoly environment.”