FCC Gets Detention

The full slate of FCC Commissioners will be making another rare appearance at the House, this time at Billy Tauzin’s Energy and Commerce Committee. Tauzin and many other Reps are pissed that the FCC went the compromise route on deregulating the mandatory sharing of local telephone networks by the regional Bell operators. And they’re especially livid that the FCC decided to delegate to the states the authority to decide whether or not a particular Bell operator, like SBC, has to open its network to competitors.

Topping it off, the FCC made this decision with a slim 3 to 2 vote where Chairman Powell was on the losing side, as more moderate Republican commissioner Kevin Martin sided with the Commission’s Democrats. Now Tauzin, a strong advocate of handing over the store to the big Baby Bell monopolies, is calling in the Commissioners for detention and a good spanking.

Tauzin has even gone so far as to label Martin a “renegade Republican.” It will be interesting to see whether this will reign Martin in or if it will only strengthen his resolve to go his own way, even if that means bucking Powell and some powerful Republican legislators.

The full FCC made its last appearance in front of Congress just a month ago in front of Sen. McCain’s Senate Commerce Committee. It’s a very rare occasion that the full FCC is summoned to Congress, thus the fact that it’s happened twice in two months is a strong indicator of how telecommunications and media ownership issues are being moved to the front burner of domestic policy. Unfotunately, the mainstream press still treats this as a business story, not national news.

Finally, even though I’m not crazy about the decision made by the FCC last week, especially since it still hands over more power to the crooked likes of SBC, I still have to enjoy the political theater of it all. As it is, consumers like you and me are already getting pretty screwed by our local Bell companies who enjoy de facto monopolies in most cities, regardless of competitors. Since as citizens and consumers we have little or no say in how the FCC or a Senate committee runs its business, sometimes the healthiest response is to sit back and watch the coyotes fight over the scraps.

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