Free-Market Coalition Urges Senate Not to Block Overdue Reforms
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, a coalition of free-market groups focused on technology policy urged the Senate not to create a stalemate on the Federal Communications Commission. Doing so would significantly delay long-overdue reforms of the agency, and could even cause Congress to miss a narrow window in which to make such reforms permanent through bipartisan legislation.
The letter urges Senate leaders to vote on the renomination of Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as early as possible in the new Congress, along with reconfirming Republican Ajit Pai and confirming a third Republican Commissioner — but not to reconfirm her now in the lame duck. Doing so would, at a minimum, ensure a 2-2 deadlock on the Commission well into 2017. If Chairman Wheeler ultimately fails to resign, it would allow Democrats to maintain control through June. Either way, the Commission would be paralyzed.
“‘Elections have consequences’, as Chairman Wheeler himself crowed last summer,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom, quoting Wheeler. “The American people ‘have chosen their path,’ and Republicans have every right to take control of the FCC on Inauguration Day. This isn’t partisanship, it’s simply democracy at work. Wheeler should, like nearly all FCC chairmen before him in this situation, resign on or before Inauguration Day. This will allow the acting Republican chairman to begin fixing the FCC’s broken processes. That includes starting the public comment cycle on institutional reforms that require lengthy notice and comment. If Wheeler hangs on, history will remember him as a hardened obstructionist and, worse, a hypocrite.”
The coalition letter declares:
Any deadlock could significantly delay the lengthy and complex process of FCC reform. The window for legislative action before the midterm elections will be far shorter than most realize. Congress will not really be able to take up the issue in earnest until the FCC’s new Republican chairman has had an opportunity to begin voting out his agenda. Having waited two decades to pick up where the 1996 Telecom Act left off, we simply cannot afford to miss this narrow window for reform.
“Commissioner Rosenworcel should absolutely be returned to the Commission, but not until a third Republican can be added,” continued Szóka. “This is not to slight Rosenworcel at all. Despite our vast differences on policy matters, we have respected her integrity and independence. But there is simply no way to reconfirm her now without creating an imbalanced or deadlocked commission.”
“The Federal Trade Commission shouldn’t be forgotten in this shuffle,” concluded Szóka. “Like Wheeler, Chairman Ramirez should resign by Inauguration Day and the new President and the Senate should quickly fill all three vacancies to bring the FTC up to full strength. That’s especially important because broadband regulation will soon be returned to the FTC, where it belongs. The FTC will be even more clearly the Federal Technology Commission.”
We can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. See our other work on Internet regulation, including:
- Our research agenda outlining how governments at all levels can ease broadband deployment
- Our Medium post, “Law & Economics Experts Should Replace Brill, Wright at FTC”
- Our petition to appeal the DC Circuit Court’s decision upholding Open Internet Order
- Our Medium post, “FCC Loses Key Muni Broadband Case”
TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.