Broadband Reports sums up the new political climate:
Democrat John Dingell (MI) and Democrat Ed Markey (MA) have both been avid supporters of net-neutrality laws and are expected to take command of telecom policy when Democrats reclaim power in the House next January. Dingell will be appointed chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees phone & cable operators. Markey will lead the Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, which could apply pressure to change tactics at the FCC.
Obviously this means a renewed interest in neutrality laws, but it may also damage telco efforts to pass legislation giving them a nationwide video franchise. Telco lobbyists had argued such a franchise would allow them to speed up next-generation network deployment by eliminating negotiations with towns and cities. Opponents were concerned the change would allow them to cherry-pick only the nation’s densest and most affluent areas for broadband network upgrades while eroding local authority.
Despite Republican control and the Senate Commerce Committee directly circulating incumbent astroturfing materials, Senator Ted “Tubes“ Stevens still had a hard time getting the 60 votes needed to pass his Communications Act of 2006. The Act, which now has little chance of passing, contained numerous provisions beneficial to incumbent providers but primarily focused on video franchising.
John Dingell, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Wednesday he wants the FCC to delay its vote on AT&T’s acquisition of BellSouth, reports the AP. Dingell, saying the combination raises a “significant antitrust question, sent a letter to the FCC asking that it hold off on the vote until after the new Congress convenes in January.
“I think it would be in their interest, I think it would be in the interest of the committee, and I think it would be in the interest of the public,” he said Wednesday.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has delayed a vote on the merger three times as he negotiates with the two Democrats on the commission over what conditions should be placed on the deal. It has not been rescheduled since the last postponement earlier this month.