National Consumers League

Consumers need an FCC chair on their side


By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
Last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced that Julius Genachowski would soon be stepping down after four years as chairman. Now, all eyes are on the White House as it prepares to nominate his successor. The FCC serves a critical role as a government watchdog and is charged with the important task of protecting the public interest in the telecommunications industry. Though the FCC is bound by law to weigh the interests and concerns of all parties, it is clear that consumers depend on the FCC to protect them and the public interest first and foremost. Any consumer who has opened their mobile phone or cable bill in recent years understands the importance of having an FCC chair that is on their side. While the Obama Administration will undoubtedly consider a number of worthy candidates, we believe that the next FCC chair should have significant experience in public interest advocacy. In the coming months and years, the FCC will consider a wide range of issues that impact consumers on a daily basis. Spectrum auctions will determine the shape of our mobile broadband future. The transition from a copper-based to IP-based telephone system will be felt by all Americans. Enforcement actions against fraudsters will protect millions of consumers. The next FCC chair will play an enormous role in shaping how these and the myriad other issues the Commission handles on a daily basis are addressed. A background in public interest advocacy is therefore critical to helping that person understand how these issues affect consumers at a very basic level. Washington is filled with lobbyists who have deep backgrounds in telecommunications and technology policy. They play an important role in helping the Commission address the often complex issues that it faces on a daily basis. That said, the FCC’s mission is to defend the public interest, not corporate bottom lines. Having someone at the top of the agency’s leadership who comes out of the public interest community will ensure that the FCC’s decisions reflect that critical responsibility.