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This week it was widely reported that there is a growing feud between Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The issue: The role of the FCC in the review of mergers between firms in the communications marketplace.
Heated rhetorical volleys were lobbed between telecom subcommittee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and FCC chairman William Kennard. Regardless of who wins the latest round of name-calling, consumers stand at a disadvantage with the current merger review process. There is too much involvement of government officials in determining the size, shape and practices of new firms that emerge from a merger.
Currently, the Department of Justice reviews every merger to determine if any laws would be violated. And the FCC? Legally they should only be involved if a particular merger involves the transfer of a license between firms, and once involved, limited in their review to these transfers.
What do we have instead? Last month the administration asked for an additional $37 million for the FCC. One explanation is that it is overwhelmed with a comprehensive review of every merger in today's fast-paced technology marketplace.
It's time for the FCC to pack it in. There is no way that a group of Washington, D.C. experts should determine which companies succeed or fail in the marketplace. FCC bureaucrats cannot possibly have the information necessary to know what the best decision is for millions of consumers. On the other hand, consumers are superbly equipped to make decisions for themselves by shopping around for a combination of quality, price, and reputation that best suits their individual needs.
Instead of FCC merger review, it is time for consumers to be put in charge. Consumers can well enough decide which companies should succeed or fail through their choices in a marketplace free of FCC regulations.
It would be a real byte out of regulator overreach to end the stranglehold of the FCC on the technology and communications sector of our economy.