By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell has started his own Web log, or blog, to reach out to the high-tech community and bypass the scores of Washington lobbyists who typically skulk around his office.
Powell, who wants to avoid regulating new technologies like Web-based telephone service for fear of stifling innovation, said he started the blog to encourage the high-tech industry to get involved because its past practice of flying under the radar to avoid regulations would no longer work.
“Regulated interests have about an 80-year head start on the entrepreneurial tech community when it comes to informing regulators what they want and need, but if anyone can make up for that, Silicon Valley can,” he said in his first blog comments posted Thursday morning.
“I am looking forward to an open, transparent and meritocracy-based communication — attributes that bloggers are famous for!” Powell said, adding he wanted to get out of “the Beltway Washington world where lobbyists filter the techies.”
He specifically asked bloggers to send in their thoughts on the coming transition to digital television and possibly using airwave frequencies between television stations for new wireless services.
But, in typical blogger fashion, replies covered subjects well beyond his inquiry, including the FCC’s recent crackdown on indecent antics on radio and television.
“Simple question for you: Why is Howard Stern’s discussion of anal/oral sex fineable, and Oprah’s isn’t?” asked one Tony Pierce.
The FCC recently proposed fining stations that carried Stern’s show that included an explicit discussion of sex. The agency is also looking into talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s discussion about sex during her TV program earlier this year.
Regulations limit airing such talks to late-night hours.
Others did stick to the subject, questioning Powell about getting telephone companies to turn on unused fiber optic cable in order to cut prices for high-speed Internet. Some chastised the FCC chief for reaching out only to Silicon Valley.
Andrew Schwartzman, a public interest lawyer who has crossed swords and won a court battle initially halting Powell’s attempts to relax media ownership limits, also chided the chairman for not seeking input on other issues.
“I wish he would do the same outreach with the public interest community,” he told Reuters. Powell was criticized during the FCC’s review of media ownership limits for not holding many official forums for public input on the rules.
Powell attended some discussions but the agency held only one official event. The FCC is now holding official hearings on how radio and television stations are serving their local communities.
FCC officials were not immediately available to comment on how often Powell would be interacting on his blog. It can be found at http://www.alwayson-network.com/
thanks to jeff jarvis for the link, else i wouldnt had known my comment had been quoted.