The “twin cornerstones” of democracy are free markets and free reign for ideas, Federal Communications Commission member Robert McDowell said Tuesday to a room full of Wall Street analysts attending the annual Credit Suisse Media and Telecom Week conference.
When it comes to regulation of an industry, “rarely do we do as good a job as you do,” he told the representatives of the private sector.
The new wave of technologies delivering communication, information and entertainment “has become the new wave of democracy,” and the delivery pipes “are getting fatter and faster,” said Mr. McDowell, who joined the FCC in June. “Never have consumers been so empowered.”
Mr. McDowell said wireless technology “may be more disruptive than the Internet,” and that companies have the choices of feeling threatened or changing and prospering.
He cited the light regulatory hand that will apply to businesses using the analog spectrum or underutilized spectrum known as white space, which will be auctioned off as part of the TV industry’s mandatory switch to digital in February 2009.
Mr. McDowell said that when confronted with evidence of marketplace failures, he favors remedies that “are narrowly tailored and sunsetted.”
He outlined question marks casting shadows over the media and telecom landscape. They include:
Mr. McDowell noted that the FCC receives only $3 million from the U.S. Treasury and returns $14 billion. A spinoff or IPO would be great, he said.