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Pai: FCC Should Scrap Extraneous 'Voluntary' Merger Conditions - Broadcasting & Cable

Pai: FCC Should Scrap Extraneous 'Voluntary' Merger Conditions

Says the commission needs to do its job more nimbly, and do more cost-benefit analysis
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New FCC commissioner Ajit Pai suggests he does know jack
about the FCC, and suggests that means being more nimble and more quick.

Pai says the FCC must get its work done faster, and suggests
one way might be to stop applying extraneous "voluntary" conditions
to mergers and start applying cost-benefit analysis before deciding to impose
new regulations.

Those suggestions come after more than 80 meetings with
stakeholders, members of Congress and others, says the commissioner according
to a copy his prepared testimony for Tuesday's (July 10) House Communications
subcommittee FCC oversight hearing.

Pai said the common refrain he has heard was how
"unreasonably delayed" FCC actions have been, from months to years to
most of a decade.

"We must act with the same alacrity as the industry we
regulate," he says, pointing to the real-world consequences of regulatory
uncertainty: new technology on shelves, capital "lying fallow"; job
cuts. He will be preaching to the choir, particularly when it comes to
Republican leadership on the committee, which has been pushing FCC reg reforms
to speed decisions.

Pai said Congress has offered some good ideas on reform, but
says the FCC does not have to wait for Congress to act. For example, he says,
"the adoption of new regulations always should be predicated upon the
Commission's determination that their benefits outweigh their costs....Also, in
the context of reviewing transactions, the agency, starting today, could and
should stop imposing conditions and insisting upon so-called ‘voluntary commitments'
by parties that are extraneous to the transaction and not designed to remedy a
transaction-specific harm."

Pai says the commission needs more shot clocks and sunset
clauses -- it currently has an informal shot clock on mergers, but in the past
has exceeded that deadline by months or more in some cases.

Pai also puts in a plug for getting more wireless spectrum
into the marketplace. Verizon, for example is currently trying to buy cable
spectrum to use in delivering advanced services, and the FCC is working on
auctions to reclaim broadcast spectrum for wireless.

Pai also said that "not later than" the end of
September, the FCC should come out with new rules to allow for more flexible,
terrestrial use, of satellite spectrum, something it has proposed to do.

Pai shows himself a big fan of the incentive auctions
Congress authorized this year to pay broadcasters for exiting spectrum. He says
those auctions hold the "greatest promise" for increasing wireless
broadband spectrum in the intermediate term. He said the commission needs to
get going with that rulemaking process this fall as well, though he
acknowledged the "daunting" task of repacking in markets like
Detroit--border issues with Canada make that market a particularly tough one.

Pai registers his unease with applying special access
regulations to IP delivery, and with the still open Title II docket -- FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski has declined to close the docket on applying some
Title II regs to Internet access service. "I am worried that recent hints
about the direction of special access regulation -- not to mention the
still-open Title II proceeding -- are only going to further chill
investment," he says.

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