What's the proper role of the FCC? According to Jennifer Schneider, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps' Legal Adviser, her boss would "love to have jurisdiction over everything." She let the cat out of the bag at the NCTA's 2010 Cable Show last week:
Here's a transcript of her answer, lightly edited for clarity:
"Well, I think Commissioner Copps would love to have jurisdiction over everything (laughter)….but he knows that's not really what the FCC is here for. Right now we're focusing on this Title I/Title II issue. When it comes to the Internet, and what rides over the Internet, we understand that it's still young. The industry is still trying to find business models that work. And we certainly don't want to interfere with that. Ultimately, though, the concern is with the consumer, so if/when things move along and there are issues, which I can't imagine happening anytime soon, someone will have to step in and I guess we'll have to wait and see if [it's] the FCC or some other agency or who knows…" [bold added]
Schneider's defense would no doubt be that it's just an off-handed remark, intended as something of a joke. And sure, she also backpedals fairly quickly by saying that Copps "knows that's not really what the FCC is here for." But it's also inadvertently revealing—a Kinsley gaffe, you might say, in which a political figure accidentally tells the truth. Copps, who has pushed to involve the FCC in everything from journalism to satellite TV service, and who has been the Commission's chief proponent of strong Net neutrality regulation, wants an FCC with few or no limits on its power. Even Schneider's placating remarks about not wanting to interfere with the still-young Net's development are followed by a prediction that once business models mature, "someone will have to step in." In other words, if Copps get his way, the FCC will leave the Internet alone for a little while, but with the implicit understanding that greater FCC control is on the way.