Should the communications industry be regulated by the FCC?

Document Type


Publication Date

December 2013

Conference / Event Title

American Enterprise Institute (AEI)


Event SummaryIs rapid growth in the communications sector cause for specialized oversight from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), or is the communications market competitive enough to be regulated by a general agency like the Federal Trade Commission or the US Justice Department? At this AEI debate, Jonathan Baker of American University and AEI’s Jeffrey Eisenach sparred over this question and many others regarding the jurisdiction of the FCC.Eisenach argued that the FCC’s involvement in the communications industry hinders the creation of a unified and consistent antitrust system. His supporting points were that communications markets are strong and competitive, that competition in this sector is no different from competition in other Internet markets, that communications markets can work without specialized oversight, and that regulation is difficult and costly to implement.Baker responded by suggesting that the communications industry is not yet totally competitive, and should continue to be fostered by the FCC. Given the rapidly evolving nature of the sector, the transition from a regulated market to an independent one is ongoing. He further explained that the FCC possesses specialized industry knowledge that other regulatory agencies lack in that the FCC complements the work of other agencies with its particular expertise, which is acquired at a lower transaction cost and should be used to support and protect the communications industry. Baker and Eisenach agreed that at minimum, the FCC should be held accountable to executive and legislative oversight to avoid overstepping its current jurisdiction.–Janine NicholsEvent DescriptionDoes the US need an industry-specific regulatory agency like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to foster and protect competition in the communications industry, or should competition oversight be transferred to a generic regulator like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)?Join us on December 12 for a debate in which Jonathan Baker of American University will maintain that an industry-specific regulator like the FCC is needed to work with antitrust enforcers to shape competition in the broadband industry. AEI’s Jeffrey Eisenach will conversely argue in favor of a generic antitrust enforcement model with primary enforcement by the FTC. The debate will be moderated by US Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Williams.