Biden 'Competition Council' Urges Biden FCC To Do Things It Can't Do Because Biden Hasn't Fully Staffed It Yet

from the circular dysfunction dept

Back in July, the Biden administration signed an executive order creating a new “competition council” tasked with taking a closer look at competition and monopoly issues in various business sectors. One of those sectors was telecom, which remains dominated by a handful of politically powerful regional monopolies, resulting in decades of spotty broadband service, high prices, and terrible customer service.

Back in July, the council offered several bits of advice as to how this could be fixed, including forcing ISPs to provide more clear pricing data to government (allowing policymakers to clearly illustrate the harms of regional monopolies), forcing ISPs to be more transparent with consumers about sneaky fees and pricing, and the restoration of the FCC’s consumer protection authority stripped away during the Trump-era net neutrality repeal:

“(i) adopting through appropriate rulemaking ‘Net Neutrality’ rules similar to those previously adopted under title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (Public Law 73-416, 48 Stat. 1064, 47 U.S.C. 151 et seq.), as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, in “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet,” 80 Fed. Reg. 19738 (Apr. 13, 2015);”

Last week the council held its inaugural meeting, including eight cabinet members and the leaders of seven independent agencies, including the FCC and acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel. As it was designed to do, the meeting focused on ways the administration can lower prices, shore up competition, and break down monopolistic logjams across business sectors:

“In the Council’s inaugural meeting, NEC Director Brian Deese (Council Chair) emphasized that the President’s competition agenda is core to the Administration’s plan to Build Back Better and critical to keeping prices low for American consumers, spurring innovation, and allowing small businesses to compete on a level playing field.”

But for risk of beating a dead horse, the FCC still can’t actually do any of the things the counsel asks of it because the Biden team still hasn’t picked permanent agency bosses for either the FCC or NTIA.

Without a permanent boss and 3-2 voting majority, the FCC can’t really do much of anything controversial to shore up telecom competition issues, much to the relief of sector giants like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Mired in partisan gridlock (quite intentionally by the Trump administration and the speedy appointment of Nathan Simington at the end of his term), it can’t do much else of any controversy either, whether that involves media consolidation or disaster preparedness. Worse, Rosenworcel’s tenure ends at the end of the year, so if this apathy continues there’s a chance the agency could see a 2-1 GOP majority in the new year, leaving it even further incapable of any real reform.

I’ve spent months talking to folks around DC asking why team Biden hasn’t staffed its telecom regulators eight months into his first term, and nobody has a reasonable explanation. While there’s clearly a lot going on, the administration wasn’t too busy to give top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen a cushy job as the U.S. Canadian Ambassador. At this rate, by the time a permanent FCC boss is seated, a full year of policy time will have been wasted, which doesn’t exactly scream “urgency” when it comes to telecom monopoly, media consolidation, or other reform.

The apathy on telecom and FCC staffing is an odd clash with the selection of antitrust-buster Lina Khan at the FTC. But it kind of fits the current DC obsession with fixating exclusively on “big tech,” while “big telecom” engages in much of the same (or sometimes worse) behavior. At some point you have to wonder if the apathy on telecom and media reform isn’t a screw up but an active policy choice.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Biden 'Competition Council' Urges Biden FCC To Do Things It Can't Do Because Biden Hasn't Fully Staffed It Yet”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guysays:

If you look WAY back there you can just barely see it...

At some point you have to wonder if the apathy on telecom and media reform isn’t a screw up but an active policy choice.

That point was after the first couple of months I’d say or at most right up until congressional fluffer and definitely-not-a-lobbyist-just-ask-Comcast David Cohen was given the position of canadian ambassador.

I’m all for giving someone the benefit of the doubt when they’re thrown into a complicated situation where they’ve got a lot of things to suddenly juggle but at this point it is only becoming harder and harder to see leaving the FCC in a crippled state as accidental.

Coyne Tibbetssays:


Let the FCC RIP. All it is, is a one-stop target for regulatory capture anyway.

I think we should give the telcoms and ISP’s what they say they want: effective regulation from three dozen different departments of government. FTC for billing and marketing, SEC for monopolization, HUD and BIA and USDA for broadband coverage, and etc.

At least they couldn’t one-stop capture the regulation anymore.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Report this ad??|??Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
12:25 Australian Privacy Commissioner Says 7-Eleven Broke Privacy Laws By Scanning Customers' Faces At Survey Kiosks (6)
10:50 Missouri Governor Doubles Down On 'View Source' Hacking Claim; PAC Now Fundraising Over This Bizarrely Stupid Claim (45)
10:45 Daily Deal: The All-in-One Microsoft, Cybersecurity, And Python Exam Prep Training Bundle (0)
09:43 Want To Understand Why U.S. Broadband Sucks? Look At Frontier Communications In Wisconsin, West Virginia (8)
05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (71)
19:57 Le Tigre Sues Barry Mann To Stop Copyright Threats Over Song, Lights Barry Mann On Fire As Well (21)
16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (15)
13:37 Two Years Later, Judge Finally Realizes That A CDN Provider Is Not Liable For Copyright Infringement On Websites (21)
12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (158)
10:55 Verizon 'Visible' Wireless Accounts Hacked, Exploited To Buy New iPhones (8)
10:50 Daily Deal: The MacOS 11 Course (0)
07:55 Suing Social Media Sites Over Acts Of Terrorism Continues To Be A Losing Bet, As 11th Circuit Dumps Another Flawed Lawsuit (11)
02:51 Trump Announces His Own Social Network, 'Truth Social,' Which Says It Can Kick Off Users For Any Reason (And Already Is) (100)
19:51 Facebook AI Moderation Continues To Suck Because Moderation At Scale Is Impossible (26)
16:12 Content Moderation Case Studies: Snapchat Disables GIPHY Integration After Racist 'Sticker' Is Discovered (2018) (11)
13:54 Arlo Makes Live Customer Service A Luxury Option (8)
12:05 Delta Proudly Announces Its Participation In The DHS's Expanded Biometric Collection Program (5)
11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (14)
10:57 Daily Deal: The Python, Git, And YAML Bundle (0)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
06:41 Report: Client-Side Scanning Is An Insecure Nightmare Just Waiting To Be Exploited By Governments (35)
20:38 MLB In Talks To Offer Streaming For All Teams' Home Games In-Market Even Without A Cable Subscription (10)
15:55 Appeals Court Says Couple's Lawsuit Over Bogus Vehicle Forfeiture Can Continue (15)
13:30 Techdirt Podcast Episode 301: Scarcity, Abundance & NFTs (0)
12:03 Hollywood Is Betting On Filtering Mandates, But Working Copyright Algorithms Simply Don't Exist (66)
10:45 Introducing The Techdirt Insider Discord (4)
10:40 Daily Deal: The Dynamic 2021 DevOps Training Bundle (0)
09:29 Criminalizing Teens' Google Searches Is Just How The UK's Anti-Cybercrime Programs Roll (19)
06:29 Canon Sued For Disabling Printer Scanners When Devices Run Out Of Ink (41)
20:51 Copyright Law Discriminating Against The Blind Finally Struck Down By Court In South Africa (7)
More arrow