Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is fond of saying the agency’s role is to “be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open,” not to “call the plays.” But his version of “fair” has more in common with a FIFA referee fixing a World Cup exhibition match than unbiased officiating. The FCC’s officiating appears to be greatly influenced by who is playing rather than the action on the field — a biased approach that harms the fans (consumers) the referee should be protecting.
The recent order approving the AT&T—DIRECTV merger is yet another example of discriminatory play calling at the FCC. Based on the FCC’s detailed economic analysis, the merger was a straight shot goal that should have been approved on time and without onerous conditions. But when AT&T’s competitors called for a time-out, the FCC pulled the plug on the game clock and took 408 days to review the merger before deciding to impose 17 pages of unnecessary penalties.
When compared to other recent mergers, the FCC’s officiating conduct during the AT&T—DIRECTV proceeding highlights how the agency wants to “make [itself] part of the game unnecessarily” rather than “make sure the game is played fairly.” Read More