Today, as phone, video, and broadcast services have become merely bits passing over a wire, Congress’s intentions embodied in the 1996 Act have been completely subverted. Through a wave of mergers and years of litigation (helped along by some gymnastic labeling fiestas by the FCC), new companies have found it almost impossible to compete.
We have Ma Cell instead of Ma Bell, with just two companies — AT&T and Verizon — utterly dominant, their vast spectrum holdings, control over handset manufacturing, and provision of backhaul adding up to moats around their businesses that Sprint and T-Mobile can’t cross. We have a handful of cable incumbents — chiefly Comcast and Time Warner — controlling high-speed wired access to everything at whatever prices they want to charge.
Given this context, and its direct impact on consumers’ pocketbooks and innovation in America, you’d think that Congress would want to have an empowered regulator able to do something to protect the country from the rational, profit-seeking depredations of our new generation of monopolists.
Instead, the House Republicans are going in exactly the opposite direction. They’re lining up big-company support to push legislation early next week on the floor of the House that would gut the FCC. The bill, H.R. 3309, is called the “FCC Process Reform Act of 2011.”