Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps proposed a blueprint of a more open FCC, advocating for spending more time serving the public good than “refereeing disputes between powerful interests.”
He referred to the mandate given to the FCC in the stimulus bill to develop a broadband roadmap, but he discussed it in only the vaguest of terms, noting that the FCC intends to open a discussion on the issues involved.
“How to keep that Internet open and dynamic is an important part of this dialogue,” Copps said, according to the prepared text of his remarks. “But so 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 upon for its democracy.”
As for the future direction of the FCC, Copps said the Commission has strayed from its mandate. He said explicitly that he was not singling out any specific previous regime at the FCC, but his vision was an obvious and stark contrast to the way his immediate predecessor, Kevin Martin, ran the agency. During Martin’s tenure, especially, agency information flowed in only one direction, up the hierarchy and through a single person – the chairman.
Copps also advocated for a more consistent FCC – he used the word “predictable” – an FCC that would not issue edicts like “thunderbolts from above.” That is not the way for an independent agency to make policy or to discharge its public interest obligations, Copps said. Again, his remarks addressed specific complaints he, other Commissioners, and many other FCC watchers expressed publicly about the Martin regime:
“When I was in the Commerce Department and we met with foreign governments, we were always advocating for ‘the rule of law.’ Maybe we should start at home,” Copps said. “Predictability also means that decisions flow from good data, hard facts and acknowledged expertise. We do too little of our own research and have come to rely too much on the data and studies of others – too often from the very parties trying to drive a particular outcome.
“For the sake of good policy, for the sake of our own credibility, the Commission just has to do a better job of making sure our proposed rules are better grounded and that they are sustainable – sustainable in the court of law, in the court of Congress and in the court of public opinion. We can afford to do this; we can’t afford not to. And I believe that such processes befit not just the FCC, but the other independent regulatory agencies, as well. The new administration’s Open Government Initiative is music to my ears and offers a wonderful opportunity to make this happen.”
Copps prepared the address for the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the FCC and the Communications Act of 1934, which established the agency.
In his address, Copps signaled that he was going to take the agency’s enforcement responsibilities more seriously. That was backed up by action.
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau released an Omnibus Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) against small telecommunications carriers – not identified publicly – for their failure to file the requisite annual Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) compliance certifications with the Commission.
The FCC slapped more than 660 small telcos with a total of $13.3 million in fines for failing to certify that they’re keeping their customers’ information safe.
Copps stated: “Carriers’ obligation to annually certify that they have implemented a CPNI protection plan is essential to ensuring their compliance with the Commission’s rules, as well as our ability to monitor their compliance. The broad nature of this enforcement action hopefully will ensure substantial compliance with our CPNI rules going forward as the Commission continues to make consumer privacy protection a top priority.”