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Event Summary

Is 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 Nichols

Event Description

Does 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.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page and join the conversation on Twitter with #AEIdebates. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

Download Audio as MP3


3:45 PM

4:00 PM
Jonathan Baker, American University
Jeffrey Eisenach, AEI

Stephen Williams, US Court of Appeals

5:15 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Janine Nichols at [email protected], 202.862.7172.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Jonathan Baker is professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, where he teaches courses primarily in the areas of antitrust and economic regulation. He served as the chief economist of the Federal Communications Commission from 2009 to 2011 and as the director of the Bureau of Economics at the Federal Trade Commission from 1995 to 1998. Previously, he worked as a senior economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, special assistant to the deputy assistant attorney general for economics in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, assistant professor at Dartmouth College’s Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, attorney adviser to the acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, and antitrust lawyer in private practice. Baker is the coauthor of an antitrust casebook, a past editorial chair of Antitrust Law Journal, and a past member of the Council of the American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law. He has published widely in the fields of antitrust law and policy and industrial organization economics.

Jeffrey Eisenach is a visiting scholar at AEI. Eisenach has served in senior positions at the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of Management and Budget. At AEI, he focuses on policies affecting the information technology sector, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Eisenach is also a managing director and principal at Navigant Economics and an adjunct professor at the George Mason University School of Law, where he teaches Regulated Industries. He writes on a wide range of issues, including industrial organization, communications policy and the Internet, government regulations, labor economics, and public finance. He has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Stephen Williams is a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was appointed to the US Court of Appeals in June 1986 and took senior status in September 2001. Williams was engaged in private practice from 1962 to 1966 and became an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1966. From 1969 until his appointment to the bench, Williams taught at the University of Colorado School of Law. During this time, he also served as a visiting professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles; University of Chicago Law School; and Southern Methodist University and was a consultant to the Administrative Conference of the United States and the Federal Trade Commission.

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