Rebooting the FCC: When gov’t needs your help

When the Federal Communications Commission was founded way back in 1934 as a replacement for an earlier government radio panel, no one thought 75 years later it might spend half a billion dollars annually regulating airwaves that bring consumers radio, TV signals, computer and mobile wireless data. Alas, in 2010 the proliferation of media makes governing the electromagnetic spectrum a billion times more difficult than solving, say, how to expand healthcare to Americans.

So now the FCC has basically said screw it. Rather that impose specific suggestions, it has launched a “Rebooting the FCC” web site asking you, dear Americans, to write in with your own answers. So go ahead!

1. Should Internet providers be charged with “network neutrality” and give everyone equal access to the Internet (feels good, right?), or make heavy users like the brat next door downloading movies on your shared cable tether sucking up bandwidth pay more (um, that feels good, too…)?

2. Should big companies be allowed to continue closed standards to maintain market share (sure), or does that stop free-market competition (um, no, that sounds better)?

3. Should the FCC step in to help save ailing mainstream media (yes!), to keep dying journalists from passing away leaving us nothing but blogs, or would that be government putting its thumb on history’s scale of content evolution (um, big government)?

On one hand we admire the FCC’s openness in seeking feedback. On the other, it feels a bit like seeking help from a counselor who says only, “sorry you’re upset, it’s OK to feel that way.” To ask a populous that fights over fictional death panels to make decisions about complex wireless technological enablers leading to game-theory conflicts in business seems a stretch. The FCC’s site proclaims: “The starting point for this effort, of course, is the First Amendment.” Great, FCC. Can’t wait to hear the solutions.

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