FCC's Wheeler: We Can't Sit Around and Suck Eggs

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler today reiterated his view that the Commission must work quickly to assess the impact of radical changes in the communications landscape due to the rapid adoption of  Internet Protocol (IP) technology by communication network providers. Speaking at an event hosted by the National Journal following the FCC's launch of a series of trials aimed at measuring the impact of that transition, Wheeler said "if we sit around and suck eggs as the FCC did when it was sitting around saying 'should we use spectrum for cellular?' we will have incredibly adverse results for our economy."

Collecting real world data through research and trials before sanctioning the end of the old twisted copper-pair, analog-based public telephone network is crucial because "the thing I learned is that you get one shot," he said, referring to his long history in dealing with FCC policies. "The trials are going to give us the opportunity to collect the information that will help us to put together the components on that one shot.  You can’t do a Gilda Radner on this [and say] 'oh never mind.'

Wheeler also made a case that the current state of communications competition, in which most markets are served by only two dominant network providers, leaves a lot of room for improvement.  "IP means choices…vast choices in services.  There needs to be competition in the infrastructure that delivers those services," he said.

"While building IP networks is a highly capital intensive activity, operating IP networks [is] essentially cost-less. How do we make sure there is competition out there?  By having multiple choices for consumers [in] terms of facilities-based infrastructure."

Fostering competition in communications is a crucial economic issue as well as a consumer choice matter. "In order to have choice and competition in services it really helps to have choice and competition in the networks.  You can’t have an opportunity economy without having opportunity networks," he said.


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