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Democracy & Technology Blog Which Republican for the FCC?

Over at TVNewsday, Harry A. Jessell writes

I don’t like the way the new FCC is shaping up. There’s something missing.
My concern has nothing to do with Julius Genachowski, whom the president has reportedly tapped for chairman….
What I’m having trouble with are the names popping up for the Republican seat….
All [the rumored candidates] work or used to work on Capitol Hill. They are basically experts on policymaking, crafting legislation and Washington politics, but not much else.
The seat is turning into a reward for loyalty and a test of whose boss has the most clout.
Bad idea.
As the professed champion of business, the Republicans should award the seat to a businessman or a businesswoman.
I’m talking about somebody who has actually done some hiring and firing, made a payroll in tough times, sweated a big sale, produced goods or services, acquired another company, got a loan to expand operations or survive a downturn and struggled to untangle and comply with federal regulations.

There’s a double standard here.
Ajit Pai, for example, who is one of the Republican candidates, is Deputy General Counsel of the FCC. He served as Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Senior Counsel at the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, Deputy Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, an Honors Program trial attorney in the Telecommunications Task Force at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and a law clerk to Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. He graduated with honors from Harvard College and from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.
Sounds an awful lot like the background of Julius Genachowski or, for that matter, President Obama.
Aside from Pai, each and every one of the Republican candidates is highly accomplished and is easily as qualified as any other recent FCC nominee.
As the title of his column, “Wanted: A Broadcaster for the FCC,” suggests, Jessell wants a special interest advocate to fill the vacant seat.
Who might that be? Jessell doesn’t say.
The FCC is supposed to regulate and deregulate in the public interest, not in the interest of established commercial entities just because they have to hire and fire, make a payroll in tough times, sweat a big sale, produce goods or services, acquire another company, get a loan to expand operations or survive a downturn and struggle to untangle and comply with federal regulations.
In short, the purpose of the FCC is not to ensure the profitability of the entities it regulates, but to ensure that innovation can flourish. Innovation leads to more competitors, new or better services and ultimately lower prices. Sometimes established firms must be allowed to fail.
The problem with the FCC is that it has become a special interest playground. It ought to be eliminated, of course. But since that isn’t possible at the moment, we ought to insist on having commissioners who are experienced in communications policy, and, yes, who understand policymaking, crafting legislation and Washington politics. They should be principled and diplomatic. They should have the temperament to be able to compromise or to respectfully dissent, depending on the circumstances. They should grasp, but not feel beholden to special interests.
If anything, Senate staffers are more likely to have acquired these skills, not less.
So I say, yes, perhaps we need a Senate staffer who has been schooled in the public interest, not an executive who is beholden to a special interest.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.