The Hundt Follies

FCC Chairman Reed Hundt has announced his resignation from office. Hundt’s in good company; FCC Commissioner James Quello has already announced his intent to step down, and Commissioner Andrew Barrett flew the coop in April.
The current Commission has been unmatched in its zeal to sell out the public. It was under Hundt and cohorts that auctions of portions of the spectrum became common practice. While the agency was mandated to adopt the process with the passage of the Telecom Act of 1996, the zeal with which it went ahead with the sales is disturbing.
The auctions have been somewhat controversial, but when the plan brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the government’s coffers, the outcry slackened off. Now the winning corporations “own” the rights to broadcast on various areas of the spectrum, and the public loses.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Hundt and his friends end up on some of the boards of the telecommunications corporations that purchased portions of the spectrum. Not only would it be fitting, but it would be a validation to pirates everywhere to redouble their efforts to take back what is rightfully theirs.
In Hundt’s farewell speech, he says he’s leaving to ‘spend more time with my family.’ Like doing that will bring in the paycheck. Where are you really going, Reed?
A copy of Hundt’s resignation statement is here – a few of the most glaring follies are below:
“Given the inevitabilities of difficulty and debate in all our decisions, it has been clear from the start that if we didn’t hang together, they would certainly hang us separately.”
The most telling phrase ever to escape from Hundt’s lips. Draw your own conclusions here.
“Government should trust markets, but verify that they are truly serving the interests of communities, citizens, children. Where they are not, government should intervene with laser-like precision to promote public needs.”
Sure, and if the market isn’t panning out the way you hope, just take it over yourself. That’s essentially what the spectrum auctions were all about.
“We have renewed and reformed the social contract between broadcasters and the public.”
You know, I just don’t think recommending better children’s television programming or the V-chip counts as “reforming the social contract.” I’d bet most people are still fed up with most broadcasters and the products they peddle.
“Our auctions were the first government auctions of spectrum in United States history, and the largest auctions of anything in terms of dollars bid. We have held more spectrum auctions than any country in the world, and have auctioned more licenses to more businesses for more money by far: Our 14 auctions have assigned more than 4,000 licenses to more than 500 businesses for over $23 billion.”
The government’s coffers now have 23 billion more dollars, but yet has it done the American public any good? And since when did something deemed to be public property (the spectrum) become a marketable good?
“We put computers and push-button phones on every desk for the first time in Commission history…”
And it’s about time, seeing as how push-button phones are now relatively low on the technology totem pole. I’m glad to see the government’s communications regulators are finally in the late 20th century with the rest of us.
“We’ve processed the most license applications in history faster than ever before. We did this while also having the biggest reduction in backlog for licenses.”
Gee, that’s easy to do when you make licenses available only to the highest bidder….it’s got a way of cutting out a lot of the field from competition, doesn’t it?