Select Page

Harvard Press Book on Telecom Industry Influence To The US FCC – Captured Agency by Norm Alster


“Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries it Presumably Regulates” by Norm Alster.
Harvard Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics (2015)

“Consumer safety, health, and privacy, along with consumer wallets, have all been overlooked, sacrificed, or raided due to unchecked industry influence.”

The Harvard Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics published an expose by investigative journalist Norm Alster on the financial ties between the US federal government’s  Federal communications Commission (FCC) and how, as a result, the wireless industry has bought inordinate access to—and power over—a major US regulatory agency. Alster describes how  the FCC is a “captured agency” meaning it is controlled by the industry it is supposed to be regulating- like the wolf watching the henhouse.

captured agency

Captured Agency compares the Wireless industry to the tobacco industry in terms of the lobbying and the strategies used to influence public perception. The report describes how the telecom industry is using the same playbook as tobacco.

The Book addresses:

  • The “revolving door” between industry & regulators meaning that persons are moving from positions in the wireless industry to positions in government and vice versa. For example, Tom Wheeler was once Head of the CTIA Wireless Industry and then Head of the FCC.
  • Large financial Investment into lobbying & via “non profit” associations
  • Massive public relations effort
  • Undermining of the credibility of scientists finding biological effects
  • Cutting research monies for science on health effects
  • Designing and publishing contradictory science
  • Trivializing highly credible scientists and experts who raise concerns
  • Misleading about a “scientific consensus”
  • Pushing for minimal regulation
  • Refusal to examine the health evidence
  • Hyper Aggressive  legal action and research bullying
  • Industry influence to Congressional committees

“It is these hardball tactics that recall 20th century Big Tobacco tactics. It is these tactics that heighten suspicion that the wireless industry does indeed have a dirty secret. And it is those tactics that intensify the spotlight on an FCC that so timidly follows the script of the fabulously wealthy, bullying, billion-dollar beneficiaries of wireless.”

On The FCC’s handling of the science pointing to health risks, Alster states, “Remarkably, it (the FCC) has not changed course despite the IARC classification of cell phones as possibly carcinogenic, despite the recent studies showing triple the glioma risk for heavy users, despite the floodtide of research showing biological effects, and despite even the recent defection of core industry booster Alex Lerchl. ”

“It is the refusal of both industry and the FCC to even acknowledge this cascade of warning signs that seems most incriminating. Of course, industry behavior goes well beyond pushing for the FCC‘s willful ignorance and inaction. Industry behavior also includes self-serving public relations and hyper aggressive legal action. It can also involve undermining the credibility of and cutting off the funding for researchers who do not endorse cellular safety….”

Read the Harvard Book Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries it Presumably Regulates free online here.

This book is available under the Creative Commons 4.0 license. Published by: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Harvard University 124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 520N Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

Captured Agency- How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries it Presumably Regulates