Opinion

The Great Debate

from Breakingviews:

FCC needs thick skin to weather its moment in sun

By Daniel Indiviglio and Robert Cyran
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will need thick skin to weather its moment in the sun. The usually low-profile telecom watchdog is tackling flashy issues involving mergers, internet neutrality and wireless spectrum. Resolving them won’t be easy, given the agency’s mandate to spark competition while also promoting efficiency and consumer choice. Current commissioners seem up to the challenge.

Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist and telecommunications entrepreneur, leads the panel of three Democrats and two Republicans. Their experience as lawyers and legislative aides and with state regulation should help in navigating a long list of politically and technically difficult tasks.

At the top is deciding whether communications conglomerate Comcast’s $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable serves the public interest. The commissioners must also determine how much wireless spectrum the likes of AT&T and Verizon can buy, strike a compromise on giving content providers equal access to the internet and find ways of freeing television broadcast spectrum for other uses.

The job is complicated by the industry’s fundamental economics. Communications companies deliver large and increasing returns to scale. Big firms have the money to build complex and efficient networks quickly but can also get lazy and act as monopolists. The Republican commissioners generally prefer to promote development by allowing companies free rein, while the Democrats tend to encourage competition by, say, limiting spectrum ownership and requiring net neutrality.

from MacroScope:

The IMF to turn on the rich

The latest International Monetary Fund meeting ended with emerging market powers getting a pledge from the organisation for stronger and "more even-handed" scrutiny of what is going on in large advanced economies.

As Reuters correspondents Lesley Wroughton and Emily Kaiser report here, the decision is a response to long-running frustrations among emerging economies, which reckon the Fund has  not been tough enough on its biggest shareholders, led by the United States.

The move reflects a number of things. First, it shows the growing clout of emerging economies within international institutions. The G-20, for example, is arguably now more influential than the old , richer G7. Secondly, it graphically underlines the current world-turned-upside-down state of the global economy, in which profligate rich economies are struggling to keep above water while supposedly poorer and less-developed ones enjoy solid growth and relatively stable finances. This graph makes the point:

  •