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A Democratic House's Impact on Telecom
Goodbye national franchises, hello net-neutrality laws?
by Karl Bode 03:17PM Wednesday Nov 08 2006
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.

Sensing the sea change, incumbent broadband providers like AT&T and Time Warner have flipped their financial allegiances accordingly. What will be interesting to watch is how Markey's renewed position (he held this same post in 1994) impacts the FCC's media consolidation push, as well as the AT&T and BellSouth merger approval process. AT&T and Republican FCC chief Kevin Martin had hoped to see the merger approved before the elections without conditions.

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2 recommendations

reply to karlmarx

Re: It's CLEANING HOUSE time at the FCC

Yea, I agree. The internet should be free. It's a shame people expect to make a profit on a utility. /sarcasm

Everyone wants everyone else to give them everything for free.

Atlanta, GA

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reply to N3OGH

Re: Not much will change...

said by N3OGH:

Americans like divided government. Things will slow down in Washington for a while, and that's probably a good thing...

I'm all for divided government. Each party has its problems. I can't stand many of the Repubs in Washington right now, but I also think many of the Dems are truly embarassments to the county and hard to take seriously (like our friend KarlMarx.)

But checks and balances have been sorely lacking these past few years, and I'm glad we're getting back to that. I actually hope the Dems DON'T win the Sentate (though it's looking like they may) just to keep Congress divided.



Chesterfield, MO

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reply to Alpine

Re: It'll definitely be interesting...

I agree if it wasn't the telcos but in my opinion, Business 101 only works if there's true competition. We can argue all day long about cable providing TV competition to the telcos but as regulated monopolies, the telcos have a guaranteed position that will fund losses for years until they either give up their video quest (leaving the cable monopoly) or gain a foothold.

That's not business 101 at work. That's massive, government-guaranteed corporations attempting to extend their reach.

The same thing goes for the cable folks. In areas under served by DSL, they are the only broadband choice. To allow them to exploit that monopoly based on the data's purpose goes against everything Business 101 believes.

If we had true competition, Business 101 would say net-neutrality is unnecessary government oversight. Since we don't have true competition, I don't think Business 101 applies.

People Suck.

Dover, DE

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reply to NyQuil Kid

Re: The Only Difference between Reps and Dems...

There is no difference. Politician is a Politician. Just new people lying to us for the next 4 years.

Atlanta, GA

2 recommendations

It'll definitely be interesting...

Karl asks "goodbye national franchises?" We shall see. I'm all for anything that will speed up next-gen deployment, and I can't see how continuing to require local franchises will do that. I understand the "cherry-picking" concern, but disagree with it. Telcos are private businesses; they should be able to deploy to profitable areas first - that's simply Business 101 and the government should have no authority over that. They'll eventually deploy to everyone - their desire for continuous growth demands it.

I don't see this having too much of an impact on the ATT/BellSouth merger, except for some of the usual cage-rattling. The merger has a good bit of bi-partisan support, especially in the South, so it'll pass sooner rather than later.

The net-neutrality boogeyman will be interesting to watch. Though nothing has happened yet and I think it's ridiculous to legislate a so-far non-existant problem, I'm sure the Dems will do some pandering and try to force through some laws. If they even care one way or the other... It's not like the Dems understand broadband any more than the Republicans did. They just have some different lobbyists.

For me, the change is good because it was relatively moderate Dems that got them over the top. Hopefully that will balance the far-left among them. They'll lose every gain they made in many states if they veer over to high taxes and socialism.


NyQuil Kid
8f The Nyquil Kid

Brick, NJ

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The Only Difference between Reps and Dems...

...is that at least Republicans _admit_ to being a**holes. Thanks, but I'd rather take a greedy GOP than a hypocritical Dem any day.

[8F] The NyQuil Kid