Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its kick-off hearing on a potential update of our nation’s communications laws with no less than four former FCC Chairmen.  As was appropriate, the hearing did not focus on specific items for change, but rather facilitated an excellent discussion of broad themes on how Congress should approach the complex task ahead.  I commend the Committee for holding this discussion, because it is very important, in the words of Congressman John Dingell, for Congress to “legislate properly” in order to minimize the inevitable unintended consequences.  Indeed, while Congress has had its share of legislative successes in the …
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This week, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform released a new Staff Report entitled Continuing Oversight of Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation:  Job Creators Still Buried by Red Tape. Among other significant data, the Staff Report found that: From 2010 to 2011, the number of final rules issued by federal agencies rose from 3,573 to 3,807—a 6.5 percent increase.  During that same time frame, the number of proposed rules increased 18.8 percent; The published regulatory burden for 2012 could exceed $105 billion, according to the American Action Forum, headed by a former director of the Congressional Budget Office; Analysis from the Heritage Foundation …
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This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission.  As to be expected, the issues covered ranged far and wide, demonstrating once again the diversity, multitude and complexity of issues pending before policymakers.  While I have no intention of commenting on them all in this blog post, I would like to highlight a few observations. First and foremost, it was a pleasure to watch new FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai answer questions with both thoughtfulness and, more importantly, significant substantive knowledge about the complexities of our industry.  Both have certainly “earned their bones” by coming …
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One of the growing hot-button issues of late has been the fight between programming networks (including traditional broadcast networks) and multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”) over retransmission fees.  As we have seen with increasing frequency, as a programming carriage contract expiration deadline looms larger, either the MVPD pays up, or the channel goes dark.  Just this week, DirecTV just dropped a whopping SEVENTEEN channels owned by Viacom—running the full gamut from MTV to Comedy Central—from their lineup when the parties failed to reach a commercial agreement. In retaliation, Viacom pulled much of their coveted programming from free Internet outlets.  Needless to say, consumers were none …
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Last week, Senator Herb Kohl, the powerful Chairman of the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Sub-Committee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski informing them that he “believes” that the pending acquisition of unused spectrum by Verizon from a consortium of cable companies “presents serious competition concerns.”  In support of this position, Senator Kohl not only argues that there is excess concentration in the current wireless market (dominated by Verizon and AT&T), but that the transaction would allow a “dominant firm” to gain “access to essential inputs needed by a rival to compete.”  …
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Recently, The Hill reported that Representatives Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo—the ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, respectively—wrote a letter to Committee Chairman Fred Upton calling for a hearing to examine the proposed sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon by a consortium of cable companies.  Without question, Congress has the authority to hold a hearing on anything they deem relevant at any time they want.  That said, and with all due respect to the powers of the legislative branch, it is unclear what a politically-charged hearing would contribute at this late stage of the review …
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