Monday, January 10, 2005

All Thrust and No Vector

Getting a rocket into space is fairly simple science. You put enough fuel under anything and you can make it fly. It’s getting the rocket to go where you want it to go and come back where you want it to come back, that’s the real art that requires just a weensy bit of intelligence.

This is something the honorable FCC Chairman Michael Powell hasn't quite figured out yet.

“Just do it!” is great stuff for athletic shoe commercials but not so great for consumer interests.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, Powell pleased the crowd by reiterating his lazy (the real meaning of laissez-faire) attitude toward broadband deployment.

“We gotta, yuk, yuk…catch up with the Japanese and Koreans…yuk, yuk.”

Never you mind the Japanese REQUIRED deployment to every home vs. the FCC and Congress allowing U.S. corporations to cherry-pick, price gouge, monopolize and endlessly whine for no regulatory oversight.

"Just deploy and we'll figure it out," was Powell’s response to what will be done on the consumer’s behalf if there are problems with the technology.

And it wasn’t just broadband that Powell addressed with his “ready, fire, aim” approach, it was also the issue of digital roll-out. When will this FCC inform millions of Americans that unless they cough up six hundred bucks for a digital converter or a couple thousand for a digitally compatible set, they won’t be able to get t.v. anymore? Sometime this spring? Or maybe next spring? Or how about we just wait until their sets go black?

What’s even more irritating on this last topic is that the people most adversely affected by this stealth scheme are people who won’t be able to afford the converters or the new televisions. These are the very people who rely on t.v. for any information at all.

Then there’s the issue of VoIP non-regulation that allowed deployment without 911 capabilities initially built in. It was recently reported that a child died because her mother did not understand that her VoIP call could not be traced by emergency responders.

Powell told the Vegas crowd that “I think you should, for once, be proud of the FCC” for its hands-off approach to VoIP.

I’d like to have him repeat that to the mother who watched as her child died, thinking that paramedics were on the way.

It’s said that what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas. But Chairman Powell’s reckless disregard for consumers (and perhaps even for human life) needs to be scrutinized by Congress. You can put enough fuel under anything and make it fly, but that doesn’t mean it should.

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