Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge makes a compelling case that the Federal Communications Commission is refusing to take actions that will create thousands of jobs. And his estimate is probably low.
Smartly, he doesn't just pin it on the FCC, where the stumbling block appears to be Chairman Genachowski (both Copps and Clyburn already want to help the innovators and true job creators) but also on Congress
Once upon a time, the old, old AT&T was the sole supplier of telephones and other equipment to consumers and businesses. The FCC, in a series of market-opening orders, culminating in the 1968 Carterfone ruling, finally freed the non-AT&T world to provide telephone equipment. Through the years, consumers and businesses had many more choices as new companies sprang up to provide home phones, business phones, and business switching equipment for voice and data. Anyone could buy a phone and plug it in. At one telephone equipment show in the mid-1980s, a small California computer company said it was going to enter the telephone business, but only put up an empty booth promising products later. (Whatever happened to those Apple guys and their phones, anyway?)
One reason is that the FCC over the years succumbed to the Big Telecom campaign to put all the little guys out of business through subterranean means that the public would never see (like charges big phone companies levy to connect to their network). Another is that the FCC gave up the authority over Internet access (broadband), which leads to its current troubles in trying to justify legally how to get an open Internet and will likely lead to future controversies over how to support broadband deployment (universal service).
Right now, it doesn't matter whether Democrats or Republicans appoint FCC Commissioners so long as 3 of the 5 commissioners are more concerned with what benefits a few massive companies rather than the vast majority of businesses and citizens.
This is exactly why communities are smart to build their own networks -- they have more control and are less damaged by the poor decisions and waffling of the federal bodies charged with making telecom policy.
AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, and the other big cable/telephone companies keep consolidating -- killing jobs directly by laying off workers and then killing jobs indirectly by raising the prices they charge for their unreliable services that compare poorly with overseas competitors. But this allows them to invest heavily in lobbyists and legislatures, which is their comparative advantage (certainly not expertise in telecom).
We need an FCC that cares about small businesses and citizens, but more importantly, we must ensure that smart, innovative communities are able to invest in themselves regardless of what decisions the FCC makes.