December 5th, 2014

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The Annual Renewing of the Forms of the Vor

Last night was the annual Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) dinner honoring the Chairman of the FCC. This is a charity event and is the telecom bar equivalent to the White House Press Correspondent's Dinner. All the major companies and law firms buy tables and tickets. Folks like me usually can scrounge a ticket from allies or frenemies.

The entertainment is the Chairman's speech which, like the President's speech, is supposed to be a humorous speech mocking the Chairman and the major players/issues (it is one of my professional milestones to have been mentioned on occassion). Like the Emperor of Barryar's Birthday from Bujold's Vorkosiverse, it has a set of customs and pracices with which the practitioner should be familiar and attendance is a chance to see and be seen by the fellow members of the telecom bar. Or, as I tell our younger staff who ask, it is worth doing at least once.

One interesting convention for the Twitter crowd. The suffix "-prom" has now come to mean an annual formal event for a class or group of people. Last night's event was marked with the hashtag #telecomprom. The White House Press Correspondent's Dinner is #nerdprom. The annual CES dinner for the consumer electronics crowd is #techprom. Not sure what other -proms are out there.

The Chairman made a fair number of jokes about the Net Neutrality fight, but I found (reading tea leaves) most of them more favorable to Title II. (Referring to the protesters who blocked his car: "You will note my car is not a hybrid." "The AWS-3 Auction has now earned $41 bn dollars. You know, some wireless companies say that classifying broadband as Title II will stifle investment. Did I mention $41 bn?") Some were directed at Comcast ("Comcast has accused its opponents of exagerating the fear of reprisals for coming forward. I was going to make a joke about [Comcast chief lobbyist] David Cohen here, but he threatened to break my kneecaps.") Other targets were the Washington "Professional Football Team" (there is a petition before the FCC to ban saying the name as indecent/offensive), and other members of the Commission and FCC.

As the Chairman noted in an unscripted aside, he got a lot less laughter this year than last year when he was new and people weren't mad at him yet.