All 5 FCC Commissioners Summoned to Senate Today

In a rare full commission appearance, all five FCC commissioners appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee under the power-shared chairship of Sen. Fritz Hollings and Sen. John McCain (McCain has not yet been made chair by committee resolution). The topic was primarily competition of telecommunications, and not the media ownership issue. Sen Hollings, in particular, raised concerns about the baby bells’ behavior in rolling out broadband (or, NOT rolling out broadband) and giving access to competitors as required by the 1996 Telecomm Act:

“Turning to broadband, the FCC is poised to create a monopoly in the small and medium business market and a duopoly in the residential market by classifying broadband as an information service.

“What does this mean? Without reasonable access under Section 251 to the Bell network for broadband, you can forget about competitors. They will just close up shop.

“This is not what the Telecommunications Act intended. “

The Senators’ and commissioners’ prepared statements are available on-line. C-SPAN has video archived on-line, but they’ve reorganized their site making it hard to find a permanent link, so try this one — it should be good for at least a few days.

There’s three hour of video, so I haven’t had a chance to take it all in. However, early on Sen. George Allen (R-VA) announced that he would be cosponsoring a bill with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to free up more spectrum for unlicensed wireless broadband devices.

A transcript should be available on Wed. or Thursday in the Congressional Record.






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