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O’Rielly Says “Guard Against Overregulating”

FCC’s rules don’t always keep pace with the changes in technology, says new commissioner

In his first public speech since being seated as an FCC commissioner, Michael O’Rielly spoke to the Hudson Institute.

O’Rielly a Republican nominee, was confirmed alongside new Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler. In their short tenures, O’Rielly says they’ve both come to be known for certain taglines that have prompted further questioning. Wheeler’s has been “competition.” O’Rielly says his tagline has been “freedom.”

As to how that relates to the commission, he says “We must guard against overregulating” and “accept the reality that costs are always passed onto consumers one way or another,” noting the FCC’s rules don’t always keep pace with the changes in technology.

Removing regulation where it is not needed better serves the goals of encouraging competition and consumer choice, according to the commissioner. “For example, the nation is moving away from analog ‘POTS’ or ‘plain old telephone service,’ to digital voice over Internet protocol. We are also relying more and more on wireless voice, texting and broadband. As we leave the traditional phone network behind, there are some unanswered questions about the potential implications of an all-IP world.”

Saying the commission is ready to embark on IP trials to help answer some of these questions, O’Reilly urges his colleagues to ensure the agency’s policies and regulations don’t impede this innovation so that providers can implement the latest technologies and services.

Switching to media ownership rules, he notes the agency is behind on both its 2010 and 2014 quadrennial review. He worked on the revision of the Telecom Act as a congressional staffer and says, “When Congress extended the media ownership review from a two-year to four-year requirement, the intention was to ensure a thorough, competitive analysis of this space. Instead, what has resulted is regulatory paralysis.”

Observing that “we no longer live in a world where Americans obtain information solely from local broadcasters and newspapers,” O’Rielly says he’s open to “thoughtfully updating the commission’s rules to reflect the realities of today’s media marketplace.”