Friday, July 24, 2009

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Says FCC has been “Beholden” to the Telecom Industry it is Charged to Regulate

The normalcy of the Senate confirmation process was jolted recently when the Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Jay Rockefeller made some bold statements to open his Committee’s hearing on two FCC Commissioner designees, Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Atwell Baker. Senator Rockefeller said:
“Because we entrust our FCC Commissioners with such great power, we expect a lot from them.

But as I made clear to the new FCC Chairman at the nomination hearing that this Committee held a month ago, I believe the agency is broken.

Where it should be relying on the facts, it has been dependent on ideology. Where it should be open and transparent, it has been opaque and beholden to the industry it regulates.

Worse, I believe it has lost sight of its mission—helping all consumers benefit from the great explosion of communications technologies that are changing our economy and changing our world.

So I charge both of our nominees today with doing their part to repair this agency.”
Thus, not only did Senator Rockefeller describe the FCC as “broken,” a term commonly used during the past few years while Kevin Martin was Chair, but he characterized the agency as “beholden to the industry it regulates.”

Those are very strong words, but justifiable due to the FCC's disinterest in consumer protection, deregulatory tilt, and the rash of merger approvals during Martin’s reign, which reduced the number of major telecom competitors with weak or illusory consumer protections, which then went largely unenforced.

Rockefeller has high hopes for the new FCC, under the new leadership of Chairman Julius Genachowski, as it begins to tackle enormous issues such as affordable universal broadband deployment and fixing the universal service fund.

The designees are strong candidates. Clyburn is the former chair of the South Carolina Public Service Commission and Baker had run the National Telecommunications and Information Administration under President Bush.

Lou Manuta

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