Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said Tuesday that it is time to start thinking about how to ensure that the Internet serves the public interest.
In a speech to the Federal Communications Bar Association seminar celebrating the 75th anniversary of the FCC and the Communications Act, Copps said it was time to think "more rigorously" about the impact of the migration of communications to the Internet.
While he said open access issues are important, so too, he said, is "how to ensure that as the Internet becomes our primary vehicle for communicating with one another, it protects the public interest and informs the civic dialogue that America depends on."
Ensuring broadcasters serve the public interest has been one of the keys to Copps' regulatory philosophy.
Copps also spoke about the FCC's recent charter to come up with a master plan for broadband deployment (as part of the economic stimulus package's broadband grant program).
"This is a very big deal," he told his audience, "the Commission has seldom if ever had a greater summons to action. It's something I have been hoping for and working for since I came to the Commission almost eight years ago. How we do on this will have a lot to do with how we fare in future years-both the country and the Commission."
There have been calls from Congress for an overhaul of the FCC. While Copps has been a critic of the commission's lack of openness and has taken steps to, as he put it, "open up clogged lines of communication," he also said reformers should look before they leap.
"Some will surely say the next step, after reopening closed lines of communication, needs to be some vast reorganization of the commission," Copps said. "That may or may not be true, and in any case would be a decision for more permanent FCC leadership to make. I would, however, offer just a word of caution because I'm not so sure that such wide-ranging reorganization is always the first or best answer to the problems we confront."
He said his point was not that the FCC should not take "a good hard look at [its] mission, which he said it should do, but that massive overhaul can be disruptive, damaging to morale, and could take away from what he called one of those "rare moments of reform--like we have now--when our energies would be better focused on good policy outcomes rather than moving the furniture around."