FCC Chief Vows Not to ‘Sit Around and Suck Eggs’ on Phone Upgrade

Wheeler says tech transition is critical to the economy.

National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Feb. 6, 2014, 6:12 a.m.

Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion Chair­man Tom Wheel­er prom­ised Thursday to move as quickly as pos­sible to al­low phone com­pan­ies to up­grade to In­ter­net-based net­works.

“If we sit around and suck eggs like the FCC did when they were think­ing about should we use spec­trum for cel­lu­lar, we will have in­cred­ibly ad­verse con­sequences for the growth of this eco­nomy,” Wheel­er said at a policy sum­mit hos­ted by Na­tion­al Journ­al. The com­ment was a shot at former FCC Com­mis­sion­er and Chair­man Robert E. Lee, who served from 1953 to 1981 and once said that people who called each oth­er on cell­phones were “frivol­ously us­ing spec­trum.”

But Wheel­er also em­phas­ized that his agency must be care­ful to ap­ply reg­u­lat­ory safe­guards to the new In­ter­net-based phone sys­tems.

“You’ve got to make sure you pre­serve the val­ues, you pre­serve con­sumer pro­tec­tion, you pre­serve and en­cour­age com­pet­i­tion. And those are neither easy tasks nor things to be taken lightly,” he said at the event, which was un­der­writ­ten by Neustar. “We are the rep­res­ent­at­ives of the people in the midst of a tu­mul­tu­ous change.”

He ad­ded that the FCC only has “one shot,” so it must en­sure that it gets it right.

“You can’t do a Gilda Rad­ner on this — ‘Oh, nev­er mind,’ ” Wheel­er said.

The FCC voted last week to move ahead with tri­als around the coun­try to gath­er data and study which reg­u­la­tions should ap­ply when phone com­pan­ies aban­don their old cop­per lines in fa­vor of IP sys­tems. Phone com­pan­ies are sub­ject to a slew of FCC reg­u­la­tions, but In­ter­net ser­vices are cur­rently much more lightly reg­u­lated.

Fol­low­ing Wheel­er’s re­marks, Bob Quinn, AT&T’s seni­or vice pres­id­ent for fed­er­al reg­u­lat­ory is­sues, said the sign of a suc­cess­ful trans­ition will be that most con­sumers don’t even no­tice it. But he ac­know­ledged that the last per­son con­nec­ted to the old phone sys­tem will have “quite a bill.”

Har­old Feld, the seni­or vice pres­id­ent of con­sumer ad­vocacy group Pub­lic Know­ledge, warned that the FCC must en­sure that a host of crit­ic­al fea­tures of the phone net­works — such as fire alarms in schools — con­tin­ue to func­tion.

“I think the im­port­ant role of the FCC right now is to make sure the vi­tal com­mu­nic­a­tions net­work of the coun­try doesn’t crash and burn,” Feld said. He ex­pressed con­cern that last month’s de­cision by the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals strik­ing down the FCC’s net-neut­ral­ity rules could ham­string the agency’s abil­ity to ef­fect­ively reg­u­late In­ter­net-based phone net­works.

But AT&T’s Quinn ar­gued that the de­cision left the FCC plenty of lee­way to reg­u­late.

“I think it gives the com­mis­sion an enorm­ous amount of tools to ef­fec­tu­ate the IP trans­ition,” Quinn said.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4710) }}

What We're Following See More »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×