"We want to be regulators and are partners in terms of options and opportunities and stimulators of growth," Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said. "It's also important that the consumers are not left on their own if things are less than perfect, and so we have to keep in mind that we are there for them if markets are less than perfect."
O'Rielly countered, "I think we shouldn't start with the idea that the market is inefficient or less than perfect and then go from there."
The issue of cable boxes is perhaps a microcosm of a divided FCC that increasingly seems split along party lines. The Republican commissioners have long complained about the procedure by which new initiatives are undertaken, a style of regulating that they say ignores the legitimate concerns raised by both industry stakeholders and officials inside the commission.
"What is happening at the FCC -- not just in terms of the set-top box proceeding, but privacy and special access or business data services, et cetera -- is not a conversation, it's dictation," Pai said. "It is the Alice in Wonderland paradigm of sentence first, verdict afterward. The agency has essentially chosen an ideological position on all these issues, goes through the formality of having this process in which it receives public input, but the decision essentially is already made. They're not open to different points of view."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.