Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Reforming the FCC

January 6, 2009, 5:30 a.m.

Can We Reform the FCC?
"Yes We Can!"

(Brought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

As Iowa Democrats' caucus choice for president is about to be inaugurated in Washington, and the state's population has recently exceeded 3 million Iowans, some 55,000 of them headed off to Tampa with their beer bongs, where the University's football team was invited to play, and then beat South Carolina 31-10, in the Outback Bowl. (Photo credit: Daniel Wallace, St. Petersburg Times.) Meanwhile, many of my colleagues (without bongs, and with a greater love for the law than for football) are in San Diego at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools, and I am in Washington, participating as a panelist at a C-SPAN-covered conference on "Reforming the Federal Communications Commission."

Like President-elect Obama and his family, I am also staying in a hotel near the White House. Unlike Obama, there is a good reason why I am not staying at the Blair House. The reason why he is not there is less clear, and the consequences are a security nightmare in the neighborhood (compared to what they would have been within the security compound of the Blair House). AFP reports, "The president-elect, his wife Michelle and two daughters are staying at the luxury Hay-Adams Hotel, a stone's throw from the White House. Obama had requested to stay at Blair House, the government's official guest residence just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, but the Bush administration said it was booked solid through January 15."

The purpose of the FCC conference is to provide the Obama Transition Team with some suggestions regarding reforms of the FCC's organization, management, process and administrative procedure -- a subject that turns out to be much more interesting, and significant for the U.S. economy (among other things) than one might first suspect.

Yesterday's (January 5) effort, held at the National Press Club before an overflow crowd, was only the beginning of what is already (January 6, afternoon) a Web site, http://fcc-reform.org, with links to the papers presented at the conference, bibliographies, and the opportunity for an ongoing discussion.

The event was organized, and smoothly executed, by two leading telecommunications public advocates, Gigi Sohn and Phil Weiser.

Gigi is the president and founder of an organization called Public Knowledge, which is offering the transition team some suggestions for substantive FCC policies as well (open broadband; balanced copyright; nondiscriminatory text messaging).

Phil is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the executive director of its Silicon Flatirons: A Center for Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

Here are the backs of their heads at the final event of the conference, presentations by former FCC chairs Reed E. Hundt and William Kennard. (For the fronts of their heads see photos below.) Photo credit: C-SPAN. Here is a link to the C-SPAN page for this portion of the conference, along with a link to the video of the presentations by Hundt and Kennard.

Rather than "presentations" by each panelist, the two panels were moderated by Gigi Sohn and Phil Weiser, who moved the discussions along with their questions of panelists.

The panel on which I participated, "Historical Perspectives on the Federal Communications Commission," or "The Past as Prologue: Lessons From History on the Road to Reform" was moderated by Phil, whose substantial paper (now available on the Web site) was the focus of the conference. The panelists included:
Kathleen Abernathy, Partner, Wilkinson Barker & Knauer/Former FCC Commissioner

Kathryn C. Brown, SVP of Policy, Verizon/Former Chief of Staff, FCC

Kyle Dixon, Partner, Kamlet Shepherd and Reichert, LLP/Former Media Bureau Deputy Chief FCC

Henry Geller, Former Administrator, NTIA

Ellen Goodman, Professor of Law, University of Rutgers-Camden/Of Counsel, Covington & Burling

Nicholas Johnson, Professor of Law, University of Iowa School of Law/Former FCC Commissioner
Here is the C-SPAN main page for the panel; and this is a link to the C-SPAN video.

Gigi Sohn opened the conference with introductory remarks at 9:00 a.m. and then proceeded to moderate the first panel's discussion, looking to the FCC's future, including its management of spectrum, net neutrality, and media ownership, called "The Future of the FCC as an Institution."

Her panelists included:
Mark Cooper, Director of Research, Consumer Federation of America

Pierre DeVries, Silicon Flatirons Senior Adjunct Fellow, University of Colorado

Mike Marcus, Marcus Spectrum Solutions

Jessica Rosenworcel, Senate Commerce Committee

Jonathan Sallet, Silicon Flatirons Senior Adjunct Fellow, University of Colorado/Partner, The Glover Park Group

Phil Weiser, Professor of Law, Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, University of Colorado/Executive Director, Silicon Flatirons Center
Here is the C-SPAN main page for this first panel; and this is a link to the C-SPAN video.

For a blogger's running report of participants' comments see also Mehan Jayasuriya, "Liveblog: Reforming the FCC," January 5, 2008.

And now here's Jay, with our 2008 "Year in Review," and all our best wishes and intuition that by the standard of "compared to what?" 2009 will produce a very Happy New Year for all of us . . . compared to 2008:


* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself.

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1 comment:

Gonzo said...

Hi Nick-

Former student here (LEM '07). I was also at the conference Monday and wanted to say hi, but didn't have the opportunity.

I also submitted a question during your panel, though there ended up not being Q&A time. But my question was directed at you and Ellen.

I am in full agreement with your point on the importance of dialog between the Commission and the academy. There are certainly a number of scholars and investigative journalists that would relish such an opportunity.

However, it seems to me that there are real barriers to generating this type of dialog. Copps and Adelstein aside, I have little faith that the Commission in recent years (esp. under Powell and Martin) would be receptive to working closely with academics.

How do we overcome this resistance? True, it is to some extent a matter of inserting "the right people." But what if we don't have "the right people?"
Moreover, how to "get the ball rolling" on such a project?

My only criticism with the conference as a whole was that a lot of great ideas were discussed, but there was little in the way of suggestions for implementing those ideas.

Interested in your thoughts on this, and despite my criticism, I got quite a bit out of the conference.