WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 - FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker outlined a plan to reform the Commission corporate mergers review process in a keynote address at the Institute for Policy Innovation's Communications Summit Wednesday.
Commissioner Baker's plan comes barely a month after the agency's approval of the Comcast-NBC Universal (CNBCU) merger. That merger review took nearly a year to complete and resulted in an agreement rife with conditions - including a major concession that the new company would abide by the FCC's controversial Open Internet Order, even if the Order were eventually struck down in the courts.
Conservative critics have maligned the agreement as an unacceptable intrusion by government regulators into the free market.
Commissioner Baker, in addition to taking issue with the final agreement in the CNBCU merger, has also voiced objections to the merger review process as a whole, typifying it as one that is inefficient, overreaching and unnecessarily time-consuming.
"The Current FCC merger review process is ripe for overhaul," Baker noted.
Citing concerns that the current merger process will discourage investment in telecommunications - or at least in telecommunications in the U.S. - Baker called out several parts of the review process for revision. Requiring multiple agencies to review mergers, she said, is duplicative and unnecessary, the process takes far longer than it ought to, and conditions attached frequently do not serve the public interest.
In response to the issues she presented, Baker also proposed a number of solutions, including working with Congress to streamline the process, imposing a binding timeline on reviews and ensuring that any conditions are more closely tied to actual and specific harms.
Baker elaborated further on instituting timelines and restricting merger conditions, both of which are issues she has publicly commented on during FCC open meetings and while testifying before Congress. Her plan would implement a binding 180-day deadline on reviews, with a possible 60-day extension "that would be the exception, not the rule."
The Commissioner also asserted that calling merger conditions "voluntary" is disingenuous. She then quoted former FCC Commissioner, Kathleen Abernathy, in calling such conditions "quid pro quo."
"[Conditions] have become the cost of doing business with the Agency," said Baker. "It devolves into how to get more out of the transaction."
Rather, she said, conditions should only be allowed where they are closely tied to actual harms. Specifically, she called out conditions in the CNBCU merger that require the new company to invest in broadband buildout and low-income access. While Baker lauded the intention and effect of the programs, she took issue with the lack of direct link between the conditions and actual harms stemming from the merger.
"[Allowing expansive conditions] invites special interests to use mergers for their own purposes," said Baker. "It delays and muddles reviews."
- Africa’s Informal Sector Marred by Small Manufacturing Base and Low Technology Adoption, Brookings Experts Say
- Wireless Internet Providers Excited About Multiple Spectrum Sharing Opportunities, Including FCC Priority Access
- FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks Gives the Broadband Scoreboard at SHLB: FCC Maps-0, Libraries-1
- Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Tackles Question of Public Versus Private Auction of C-Band Spectrum
- FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr Touts Work on Enhancing Telehealth and Flexible Spectrum
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Intellectual Property3 months ago
In Congressional Oversight Hearing, Register of Copyrights Says Office Is Responding to Online Users
Broadband Data5 months ago
Pennsylvania Broadband Speeds Worse Than Previously Believed, According to State Report
Broadband Data4 months ago
California Report: Income Most Significant Factor in Low Broadband Adoption
Privacy and Security2 months ago
Comparing Privacy Policies for Wearable Fitness Trackers: Apple, Fitbit, Xiaomi and Under Armour
Antitrust1 month ago
Addressing the Impact of Big Data Upon Antitrust is More Complicated Than a Big Tech Breakup
Expert Opinion3 months ago
Geoff Mulligan: A ‘Dumb’ Way to Build Smart Cities
Antitrust1 month ago
Broadband Roundup: Everyone (Almost) Gangs Up on Google, Muni Broadband Fact Sheet, SHLB Anchornet Conference
Broadband Roundup2 months ago
Cable Industry Touts Energy Efficiency, Next Century Highlights Open Access Fiber, Aspen Forum Set