McAdams On: Regulatory Ripple Effect

OUTSIDE, BELTWAY—There is a willful ignorance in Washington, D.C. of the ripple effects of lawmaking. It’s like that little old lady who cuts you off in traffic. If she doesn’t look at you, you don’t exist. I’m sure this calculated incomprehension cuts across all D.C. agencies, but we have a front-row seat to the FCC.

It’s clear the commission intends to do away with broadcast television. References to the “value” of broadcasting and “all reasonable effort” to preserve it resemble the imposturous passive-aggressive semantics employed by a benign torturer.

“I don’t want to do this, but I have to.”

The battle to kill broadcasting is a campaign by wireless providers—pure and simple—with pay-TV and the consumer electronics lobby cheering them on. It is cast as a battle against an entrenched titan unwilling to evolve for the greater good.

Far from being a titan, broadcasting is an industry of mom-and-pops, entrepreneurs and boot-strappers as much if not more than of corporate entities. There’s a substantial economic vertical that provides technology and services to broadcasters that’s being decimated by the twin forces of regulatory caprice and virtualization.

The revolving-door FCC legacy-building leadership ignores its deleterious impact on existing jobs, preferring instead to cite magical figures of jobs that will surely be created someday. It is a disservice to the nation and ultimately, the greater good, that the plan to alter the nation’s video media infrastructure is based on rhetoric rather than factual analysis.

The public was scared into believing in a non-existent spectrum crunch that one prominent former MIT professor characterized as absurd. Data usage figures derived from what may well be peak mobile uptake were used to make wildly escalating demand projections, with no consideration for the inevitable leveling off. The focus was kept deliberately off of making more spectrally efficient technologies.

It is under these distractive auspices that more TV spectrum will be auctioned off yet again, when indeed there is but one reason.

Congress already spent the money.