FCC says the dingo ate my decision

3 March 2015 by Steve Blum
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I’ll do it after my nap.

A thousand word blog post explaining why the FCC hasn’t released the text of its decision last week that brings Internet service and infrastructure under common carrier rules boils down to one feeble excuse: we haven’t finished writing it yet.

The explanation, offered by FCC general counsel Jon Salet, is nonsense. It goes on at length about the need for robust internal discussions at the FCC and the necessity of preparing a final document that responds to the points raised by dissenting commissioners

Commissioners often prepare individual statements expressing their opinions on the order, and those statements are generally first shared with the other Commissioners and staff. The statements may generate additional internal discussions, during which both the order and the statements may be clarified. In addition, the order itself must address any significant argument made in the statements – or risk being overturned in court for failing to address the issue.

It’s nonsense because, first, if there had been a legitimate internal discussion before the vote, the dissenting points would have already been addressed in the text as approved last week.

Second, and more to the point, the California Public Utilities Commission does the same job as the FCC – it regulates telecoms companies within the limits of its jurisdiction – and also combines quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative functions. The CPUC has no problem releasing drafts under discussion and amending those drafts as it goes along, with all the cards out on the table before commissioners vote. Even if it takes a few days to prepare the final, formal document, there is full public disclosure of what has been approved. It’s not rocket science.

Presumably, the same faulty logic also applies to the FCC’s decision to preempt state restrictions on municipal broadband systems. The FCC’s decisions last week will re-shape the U.S. telecoms industry. Continuing to maintain secrecy is irresponsible.