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Issue Watch

2011 Issue Watch

FCC Commissioners OK Ownership Proposals, But Not Without Reservations

The FCC voted Dec. 22 to propose a number of changes to its media ownership rules, ask whether joint TV stations services agreements should count toward ownership caps, and to seek better ways to promote media ownership diversity, but that vote did not come without some respectful dissention in the rank, including the only "no" vote, which came from a Democrat.  Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell called the FCC's approach overly cautious and a form of 'Regulatory Sclerosis' and concurred, rather than approve, the parts he was not happy with, and Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps dissented from loosening the newspaper-broadcast crossownership portion, as he did the last time the FCC took similar action, in 2007 under then-chairman Kevin Martin.  Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who supported the item in its entirety, focused on the diversity initiatives portion….  » Full Story

Verizon Wireless makes marketing, airwave deal with three cable companies

Verizon Wireless has reached an unorthodox deal with three major cable companies that could transform the way consumers get access to TV, cellphones and the Internet, setting up a consortium of firms with enormous power over mobile and home entertainment.  The agreement among the former rivals immediately drew concern from regulators, according to a person familiar with the matter.  Advocacy groups said the alliance could limit choices for consumers.  Under the deal announced Friday, Verizon will pay $3.6 billion to Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks to use a swath of cellphone airwaves that the cable giants own but do not use.  That would cement Verizon's status as the dominant wireless carrier and give it access to valuable spectrum at a time when its primary rival — AT&T — is struggling to expand its network through a controversial proposed merger with T-Mobile….  » Full Story

Facebook settles privacy complaint, agrees to ask permission for privacy changes

Facebook has settled a privacy complaint at the Federal Trade Commission that the company deceived consumers by making consumer information more public, according to an announcement by the FTC.  According to a Tuesday release, the FTC said Facebook has agreed to get consumers' approval before it changes the way it shares their data and will have to undergo periodic audits of their privacy practices for the next 20 years.  The announcement comes as Facebook reportedly is preparing an initial public offering in the second quarter of next year. Privacy scrutiny by federal enforcement officials has weighed on the company's business prospects, analysts say, and the settlement will clear the way for the stock offering.
» Full Story

FCC Deals Serious Blow to AT&T and T-Mobile Deal

AT&T, with its powerful army of lobbyists and years of experience navigating Washington, thought it could easily persuade the government to approve its merger with T-Mobile. But regulators aren't buying it, and the $39 billion deal is facing its biggest threat yet.  Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Gena­chow­ski dealt a serious blow to the merger Tuesday, moving to block the deal on the basis of findings that it would cause job losses and higher prices for consumers, officials said.  It was an unusual move for the FCC, which has not tried to block a deal since 2002.  AT&T now faces its second major barrier from the government.  The Justice Department's antitrust division has already sued and is scheduled to present its case against the deal in February before a federal judge.  » Full Story

Walden Calls on White House to Block Net Neutrality Rules

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) Thursday asked the White House to step in by "stopping the implementation of the FCC's net neutrality rules." The FCC's network neutrality rules are scheduled to go into effect next month. In concert with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Walden wrote the president, saying that the president has for the past year called for reviewing regs that would adversely impact jobs, the economy and innovation. "The net neutrality rules at best create uncertainty in the technology sector and at worst could hinder this vital economic engine from creating the jobs Americans need," they said. Walden and Rogers were not preaching to the choir. The President made net neutrality a campaign platform and publicly praised the FCC's vote to approve what it billed as compromise regs.  » Full Story

House Companion To Protect IP Bill Introduced

As studios and unions had hoped and fair use advocates, including consumer electronics companies, had tried to forestall, a companion to the Protect IP Act was introduced Wednesday in the House.
There has been plenty of  activity on the issue in the past few days as the Consumer Electronics Association and others asked House members to hold off on the bill until the legislators could hold more meetings with those stakeholders about their concerns. In fact, CEA is bringing venture capitalists to the Hill Thursday (Oct. 27) to argue that the bill--now bills--would undermine the Web economy, kill jobs and stunt innovation.
Like the Protect IP Act, the STOP Online Piracy Act would give law enforcement more power to pursue foreign web sites they suspect of distributing pirated TV shows and movies. Proponents say it would protect legal content while taking a bite out of IP theft crime. Critics, including CEA, say it goes overboard, and overbroad, by allowing copyright owners to shut down sites on mere accusation by forcing ISPs to block access to such sites.
The Judiciary Committee describes it as allowing the Attorney General to seek injunctions against foreign sites that "steal and sell American innovations and products."
"The notoriously litigious content industry could simply accuse a site that it is selling a product that could ‘enable or facilitate' a copyright infringement, thereby allowing accusations to shut down sites vital to the Internet economy," CEDA President Gary Shapiro said Thursday. "This scenario is unacceptable and could lead to mass shut downs of websites and Internet-enabled services."  » Full Story

CTIA Backs FCC on Net Neutrality Rules

CTIA: The Wireless Association has joined the FCC's side in the legal fight over the commission's new network neutrality rules, which take effect next month. CTIA filed a motion to intervene with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, signaling to the court that it stands by the FCC's decision last December to codify and expand its network neutrality principles.

The legal battle at issue is not the challenge to the rules by Verizon (Verizon Wireless is a CTIA member) as sweeping and unneeded regulation, but the separate challenge to the rules by Free Press and others who took issue with the FCC's decision not to apply the openness and access requirements on mobile broadband, saying there were differences that justified that disparate treatment, but that it would monitor the space and adjust that decision as necessary.

"For several independent reasons the FCC determined that 'mobile broadband presents special considerations that suggest differences in how and when open Internet protections should apply,' CTIA told the court. "The FCC accordingly imposed fewer regulatory burdens on mobile Internet access services than on their fixed-line counterparts. Petitioners challenge the FCC's determination that 'wireless is different' and its decision to regulate mobile services more lightly. CTIA wishes to defend the FCC against that challenge and any related arguments that the FCC erred in imposing too few regulatory burdens."  » Full Story

House Subcommittee To Focus on Broadband, Wireless Industries

The House Communications Subcommittee will focus its energies on the broadband and wireless industries, at least according to the listed priorities on the Energy & Commerce Committees' just-released fall agenda.

"Broadband and wireless spectrum policy are vital jobs issues and spectrum legislation and FCC process reform will be at the forefront to advance wireless broadband, promote deployment of an interoperable broadband public safety network, create jobs, and reduce the deficit," the parent E&C leadership said.

While the subcommittee's chairman, Greg Walden (R-Ore.), is a former broadcaster, there was no mention of broadcasters, though they will certainly be affected by the spectrum legislation, which will authorize the FCC to pay them to give up spectrum for wireless. The emphasis in the agenda, released by E&C Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.), appeared to be on smoothing the regulatory path for the wireless industry.  » Full Story

Third Circuit Denies Full-Court Review of Media Ownership Decision

According to a copy of the decision, released Tuesday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has declined a broadcaster petition for an en banc rehearing of its media ownership ruling.

A three-judge panel of the court in July voted 2-1 to vacate the FCC's loosening of the newspaper-broadcast crossownership ban (though on procedural grounds), smacked down some of its ownership diversity efforts, and supported the decision not to loosen other ownership regs.

Broadcasters then sought a rehearing by the full court, which Monday released its decision. The vote was 4-3 not to re-hear the case.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), CBS, Belo, and others had sought the re-hearing in an Aug. 22 filing, saying that the three-judge panel had gotten it wrong and asserting that the Third Circuit appeared to want to retain jurisdiction over the case "in perpetuity." The same three-judge panel had ruled against the rules back in 2004, the petition pointed out.  
» Full Story

FCC Releases Order Dropping Fairness Doctrine

The FCC made it official Wednesday, releasing the order scrapping the fairness doctrine and related rules, which applied to both broadcasting and cable.

That was part of the FCC's pruning of 83 media-related rules it called "nonsubstantive, editorial" revisions, including ones that "merely redirect the reader to see similar, re-numbered rules" and ones that had sunset or been struck down by the courts.

The FCC signaled it had scrapped the doctrine Monday, but had jumped the gun a bit and actually circulated the order among the other commissioners for a 48-hour period before releasing it officially Wednesday.

"This Order deletes both broadcast and cable rules referencing the Commission's so-called 'fairness doctrine.' The Commission abrogated the fairness doctrine in 1987, after concluding that it no longer served the public interest, was not statutorily mandated, and was inconsistent with First Amendment values," said the order, released by Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake and FCC Deputy Managing Director Dana Shaffer.

Because it was essentially procedural housecleaning, the rule excisions did not require a vote by the commissioners.  » Full Story

Power and the Press: The Phone-Hacking Scandal and the Dangers of
"Campaign Finance Reform"

On this side of the Atlantic, most of the commentary about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has consisted in an outpouring of left-wing ressentiment against News Corp.'s American properties, which have nothing to do with the scandal, for not hewing to the liberal-left pieties of the so-called mainstream media.  The best distillation of this attitude came from The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg last week: "In terms of its net impact on human welfare, News of the World has been the least evil of Rupert Murdoch's three-cornered Axis of Evil, the other two being the Fox News Network and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal."  This sort of demonization of dissent is common enough to be tiresome and is of a piece with the deplorable and unsuccessful effort (in which Hertzberg participated) to scapegoat conservative media figures for the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  In England, however, the complaint about Murdoch is not merely that he supports "evil" points of view but that he exercises actual power, because the press plays a larger and more direct role in politics there than in the U.S. In all this there is a warning to Americans….  » Full Story

FCC Chair Does Not Expect Commission To Be Involved in News Corp.
Hacking Inquiry

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said July 12 that he was not going to answer hypotheticals about News Corp. TV station license renewals in the wake of the growing phone hacking scandal involving its British tabloid, but indicated he did not see the FCC becoming involved in that issue.  "Obviously there is a process going on in the U.K.," he said, "and that is a U.K. process and I don't expect we will be involved with that." That came in a press conference following the FCC's monthly meeting Tuesday (July 12).  Asked a second time about the impact of the News Corp. scandal and whether it could call News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch's fitness as a licensee into question, Genachowski said it was the same question. "There is a process going on in the U.K. that is not a process that we expect to get involved with or interfere with." But he did add that: "The Mass Media Bureau here will do its job if any issues arise."  » Full Story      

Labels Reach Deal With ISPs on Antipiracy Effort

Nearly three years after the RIAA said it was "close" to getting Internet service providers to help in their fight against online piracy, that assistance has finally arrived.  According to a new agreement unveiled today, the music, movie and ISP industries have agreed upon a graduated response system called "Copyright Alerts."  The program sets a set of best practices for how ISP subscribers will be notified when their account has been identified as having been used to download infringing content such as music or movies, as well as a set of actions the ISP will take if the behavior continues.  Those collaborating on the deal include entertainment industry organizations like the RIAA, MPAA, A2IM and IFTA, along with associations representing the major ISPs (including Comcast, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon) such as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association….  » Full Story

A Supreme Court Win for Political Speech and Political Money

The fate of Arizona’s Clean Elections Act, which the Supreme Court on Monday declared unconstitutional, was foreshadowed March 28, during oral arguments.  Lawyers defending the law insisted its purpose was to combat corruption or the appearance thereof.  The court has repeatedly said this is the only constitutionally permissible reason for restricting the quantity of political speech.   The law’s defenders insisted its purpose was not to “level the playing field” by equalizing candidates’ resources, which the court has declared an unconstitutional reason for regulating speech.  But Chief Justice John Roberts replied: “Well, I checked the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Web site this morning, and it says that this act was passed to ‘level the playing field’ when it comes to running for office.”  Game over….  » Full Story

House Republicans Continue To Question Collaboration On Net Neutrality Rules

House Republicans continue to question how the Federal Communications Commission developed and passed rules designed to prevent anticompetitive behavior online.  Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., criticized what she called "collusion" between the FCC and the advocacy group Free Press on Friday.  On Thursday the conservative group Judicial Watch released emails between Free Press employees and Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and his staff.  "I am deeply disturbed by the revelations of collusion between the FCC and Free Press on the net-neutrality issue.  The FCC has moved against the will of the people, the wisdom of Congress, and the order of the courts, to nationalize our most productive marketplace," Blackburn said in a statement sent to reporters.  She has vocally opposed the so-called "net neutrality" rules.  » Full Story

Free Press Asks FCC Commissioners to Take AT&T-Mobile Pledge

Free Press, which has been critical of the exit of Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker's exit from regulator to regulated industry (Comcast/NBCU), sent a letter to the four remaining FCC commissioners Thursday asking them to take a pledge that they would not seek a job with either AT&T or T-Mobile, the merger the commission is currently vetting.  Free Press, which has been a big critic of both the Comcast/NBCU and AT&T-T-Mobile deals, said: "We ask the commissioners to stand up and declare that they will not seek nor accept employment from AT&T or T-Mobile directly upon leaving their present posts. We ask for assurance that the FCC's commitment is to the public it serves and not to a big payday from potential future employers."  » Full Story

Documents show FCC coordinated 'Net Neutrality' 
effort with outside group

Documents made public yesterday by Judicial Watch describe extensive collusion by Federal Communications Commission officials with a left-wing advocacy group in a campaign to expand government regulation of the Internet.  The documents, obtained by Judicial Watch in a December 2010 Freedom of Information Act request, were created after Democrat appointees solidified their 3-2 control of the agency in March 2009….  » Full Story

FCC to Issa: Baker Sought Ethics Advice on Move to Comcast

Soon-to-be-former Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker asked the agency's general counsel for ethics advice in mid-April after receiving an employment overture from Comcast Corp., according to a letter released Thursday by the agency.  Ms. Baker announced last month that she will join Comcast's Washington office to head the NBC lobbying shop.  The move came just four months after Ms. Baker, a Republican, voted in favor of Comcast's deal to acquire control of NBC Universal from General Electric Co….  » Full Story

Spectrum Hearing Slated for June 1

The House Energy & Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee will hold another spectrum hearing June 1.  According to the committee, the hearing will be on "Promoting Broadband, Jobs and Economic Growth Through Commercial Spectrum Auctions."  It will follow this week's May 25 hearing on"Creating an Interoperable Public Safety Network."  The two issues are tied together by bills in the House and Senate that would auction broadcast spectrum to commercial wireless broadband users and use some of that money to fund and maintain an emergency communications network.  Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) had said there would be several spectrum-related hearings, but that he did not want to rush a decision about freeing up spectrum….  » Full Story

Antitrust Laws Can’t Ensure Internet Fairness, FCC Head Says

Antitrust laws alone can’t ensure the free flow of information on the Internet, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski told a House panel.  Genachowski today defended the FCC’s decision in December to ban Internet service providers led by AT&T Inc. (T) and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) from blocking or slowing Web content sent to home and businesses.  Congress should let the so-called net-neutrality rules take hold, the Democratic chairman said in prepared remarks to a House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.  “To undo our framework would increase uncertainty, decrease investment and hurt job creation,” he said. “Antitrust laws alone would not adequately preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet.” » Full Story

NCTA: FCC Needs To Rethink Net Neutrality Compliance Burden

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has told the FCC and the Office of Management and Budget that the FCC has significantly underestimated the time and money it will take to comply with the transparency and complaint procedures it adopted in its Open Internet order (net neutrality rules).  OMB is vetting the paperwork-collection requirements to make sure they do not run afoul of Congress's Paperwork Reduction Act mandate to keep bureaucratic tree-killing to a minimum. NCTA has asked for changes in those requirements, which could delay that effective date even more.  The FCC, when it approved the rules back in December, said it expected the costs of compliance with new rules on transparency, blocking and unreasonable discrimination to be "small" since the principles are in line with current practice. NCTA says the open-ended rules meancosts and paperwork could be far greater, and wants the FCC to rethink its estimates so that OMB has a better idea of the burden, or amend its requirements.  » Full Story

Walden: Congress Won't Be Rushed Into Spectrum Decision 

"There are a lot of wolves at the door when it comes to spectrum," House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden said Wednesday, but he conceded there was a huge demand behind all that huffing and puffing. He told an American Cable Association summit audience that spectrum was an important and valuable commodity held by the public--he is a former broadcaster--and that country needed to get the spectrum issue right.  Walden told reporters afterwards that he did not know whether an incentive auction bill paying broadcasters for giving up spectrum would be passed this year. The FCC has been pushing Congress to pass a bill ASAP so it can reclaim spectrum for wireless broadband before a looming spectrumcrunch gets any worse.  » Full Story

Copps: Both Broadcasting and Wireless Are Essential

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said Thursday he hoped that the spectrum debate was not devolving into a communications civil war, but said it probably was.  He also gave a shout out to both broadcasting and wireless as "essential," and said that the FCC needs to do a better job of inventorying spectrum.  That came in an interview for C-SPAN's “Communicators” series.  The "civil war" comment was in response to statements by National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith about the efficiency of broadcasting's one-to-many model versus the one-to-one cellular delivery model.  Smith has said there might not be enough spectrum in the universe to accommodate one-to-one video.... » Full Story

FCC: Earful on Spectrum

Communications "condominiums" NGBT plans (no, it has nothing to do with gender preferences), and vouchers.  These are only some of the proposals being offered up by broadcasters as they look to protect their spectrum turf from the FCC and the Obama administration, both of which keep eyeing it hungrily.  The end game for broadcasters, or more pointedly the “avoid-the-end” game, is to make sure they are still viable after the government frees up/reclaims spectrum for wireless broadband, which it wants to start doing ASAP, as FCC chief Julius Genachowski said last week....  » Full Story

Genachowski Pushes for Swift Movement on Spectrum During CTIA Show

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Tuesday brought his call for moving swiftly to free up more wireless spectrum home to a roomful of big fans, the International CTIA show in Orlando, the wireless companies who have been pushing the FCC hard to make that happen.  In his keynote speech, the chairman, using a tablet as a teleprompter, said it was like Tomorrowland had been moved from Disney World to the Orange County Convention Center.  "Broadband is no longer a luxury," he said, and unleashing spectrum is a national priority.  The broadband adoption rate is 67%, that is too low, he said, and the cost of the U.S.'s competitiveness could be severe.  He said there were four key reasons why spectrum was atop the FCC's agenda: American competitiveness, opportunity, dollars, and the cost of delay....  » Full Story

House Republicans Tout Dem Support for Net-Neutrality Repeal

House Republicans are pointing to the bipartisan support of their net-neutrality repeal effort — one of the most partisan issues before Energy and Commerce this year.  The committee's top telecom leaders circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter on Monday with five names on it — two of them are Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Dan Boren (Okla.).  The letter asks members to support a resolution that would repeal the net-neutrality regulations passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December.  » Full Story

Juan Williams: NPR 'All White Organization,' Exhibited 'Worst of White Condescension' in Firing Me  

Juan Williams says NPR is an "all-white organization" that exhibited the "worst of white condescension" in its handling of his firing last year.  In an interview with The Huffington Post, conducted before the most recent controversy surrounding an NPR executive's comments about the tea party (and CEO Vivian Schiller's ousting), Williams blasted the organization for its treatment of him.  "I think when it comes to NPR's decision to, without any reason, throw me out the door, I think that for them, especially for some of the people who created NPR, it's an all-white operation," Williams said.  He added that he thought NPR "felt they had never had much success" with black or Hispanic journalists, and that they had had "more success with white women."  » Full Story

Net Neutrality Markup Scheduled for March 9

Not looking to waste any time, House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican leaders have scheduled a March 9 markup of their resolution (H.J. Res. 37) blocking the FCC's network neutrality rules.  It will immediately follow a legislative hearing on the substance of the resolution scheduled for the same day.  Marking up a bill consists of amending and voting on the bill in committee.  Democrats last week had asked that the markup be postponed so the legislative hearing could be held. Republicans agreed, but have now said the postponement will only be a few hours....  » Full Story

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Military Funeral Protesters

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects fundamentalist church members who mount attention-getting, anti-gay protests outside military funerals. The court voted 8-1 in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.  The decision upheld an appeals court ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment to the father of a dead Marine who sued church members after they picketed his son's funeral.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. Justice Samuel Alito dissented.  "What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to 'special protection' under the First Amendment," Roberts wrote, "and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous."  » Full Story

Boehner Expects House To Act on Fairness Doctrine-Blocking Legislation

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the National Religious Broadcasters convention Sunday (Feb. 27) that some members of Congress and "the federal bureaucracy" are still trying to reinstate "and even expand" the fairness doctrine.  The fairness doctrine is the FCC policy - abandoned in 1987 as unconstitutional - that required broadcasters to seek out opposing viewpoints on issues of national importance.  Boehner said in a speech to the convention that he expects the House to act on legislation that would make sure it was not revived.  The doctrine's demise is credited with the rise of conservative talk radio....  » Full Story

Boehner Says Vote To Invalidate Net Rules Could Come in March

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday (Feb. 27) the House will act as early as March on a proposal to invalidate the FCC's network neutrality rules.  He said the FCC has not been able to give Congress a straight answer to "explain the need for this intrusion."  Those remarks came in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters Sunday at its annual convention in Nashville.  The commission voted Dec. 21 to expand and codify its Internet openness principles on a straight party line vote with strong Republican opposition.  Republicans in the House have continued that strong opposition, including defunding the rule change as part of the stop-gap appropriations the House passed two weeks ago....  » Full Story

Franken, Kerry Lead Charge To Defend FCC's Net Neutrality Rules
in the Senate

Four Senate Democrats wrote to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday to oppose GOP efforts to defund net neutrality rules through spending legislation.  The letter included Senate Commerce Communications subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).  "Telephone and cable companies do not own the Internet. But if [the anti-neutrality effort] is successful, they will," the letter said.  The spending bill that passed the House on Saturday included language to prevent the FCC from using funds to implement its controversial net neutrality rules, which it passed in December over strong objections from Republicans....  » Full Story

House Votes To Overturn FCC Internet Rules

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to overturn proposed rules that bar Internet service providers from blocking legal content but give some discretion to ration access for bandwidth hogs.  The vote -- which was spearheaded by Republican lawmakers determined to undo a range of Obama administration initiatives -- would block funds to implement rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission in December.  The measure was added as an amendment to a sweeping spending bill that will fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year.  To become law, the measure would also need to pass the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, and get President Barack Obama's signature. No vote has been scheduled for the measure in the Senate....  » Full Story

New Flare-Up in Capitol Over 'Net Neutrality'

House Republicans attacked new "net neutrality" rules for broadband Internet lines in a contentious hearing Feb. 16 and criticized Democratic Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski for adopting them.  Republicans are targeting the new Internet rules, which would bar Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet traffic and services, as one of many new regulations, including for health care and the environment, which they say are unnecessary and overly burdensome on industry.  "Why would you put the government in charge of the Internet?" said Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Mr. Genachowski defended the new rules during the hearing, saying the FCC "did the right thing" and that it is "pro-job and pro-investment" for the U.S. economy....  "The FCC argues it can regulate anything if, in its opinion, doing so would encourage broadband deployment," Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.,) chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said Wednesday. "I am relieved, however, that the FCC declined under its new found authority to regulate coffee shops, bookstores, airlines and other entities," he said.... » Full Story

FCC Chairman Defends Net Neutrality Turf

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski plans to tell legislators at a House hearing Wednesday that the FCC's new network neutrality rules are a straightforward and sensible compromise on rules for the Internet road, hailed by marknet analysts as a light-touch approach to regulation, and one that insures that "law-abiding citizens can say what they want and go where they want online."  He also suggests the route to those rules was open, well-traveled, adjusted after hearing from all sides, and a welcome signal of regulatory certainty to investors and innovators. » Full Story

Republicans Propose Zeroing Out CPB Funding

Public broadcasters and their supporters fired back over the weekend following the release of a bill by the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee that would cut out its funding.  The bill is the Republicans' version of the continuing resolution that would keep the government operating but take $100 billion out of its budget, including all the funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting not already obligated to be spent.  Public broadcasting gets about 15% of its funding from the government....  » Full Story

House Committee Sets Meeting Date To Weigh FCC's Net Neutrality Rules

The House Communications Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on the Federal Communications Commission's new net neutrality rules for Feb. 16, according to published reports.  Committee chair, Rep. Chairman Greg Walden, (R-Ore.), along with Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have both said they'll lead the charge to block the rules from being adopted.  Non-profit group Public Knowledge, meanwhile, has launched a campaign to protect the rules, asking members to contact their representatives in Congress and ask them to support the new regs.... » Full Story

Verizon to D.C. Circuit: Don't Dismiss Appeal

Lawyers for Verizon today fired back at federal communications regulators, arguing in a Washington appeals court that the company's suit challenging newly promulgated Internet access rules is viable and should not be dismissed.  Verizon's attorneys, including Wiley Rein partner Helgi Walker, filed court papers this morning in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit urging the court not to dismiss the company's appeal.  The litigation is focused on new Federal Communications Commission regulations governing how fixed and wireless Internet service providers control network access.  The filing responds to the FCC's submission Friday that asked the appeals court to throw out the challenge on procedural grounds. FCC lawyers argue, among other things, Verizon's appeal is premature since the order establishing new Internet access regulations hasn't been published in the Federal Register.... » Full Story

Cantwell Introduces Bill Applying New Net Neutrality Rules to Wireless

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has introduced a bill, the Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011, that would create a new section under Title II of the Communications Act enshrining the FCC's six new network neutrality rules and applying them to wireless.  Those were steps the FCC was not willing to take, at least not as part of its Dec. 21 vote to expand and codify its network neutrality guidelines.  But the commission did apply transparency and site-blocking prohibitions to wireless as part of that vote, said it would revisit the wireless space down the road, and left open the possibility of reclassifying Internet access services under Title II, though it said it could justify its Title I ancillary authority.  Cantwell was joined by co-sponsor Al Franken (D-Minn.)....  » Full Story

President: 4G Wireless Access to 98% of Americans Within Five Years

President Barack Obama did not take long to get into the issue of contentious political debate in his State of the Union Speech, according to a copy of his "prepared for delivery" remarks.  But the President also used the opportunity to tell parents it was their job to turn off the TV and make sure their kids get their work done, and for the U.S. to do a better job of deploying broadband, saying that "South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do."  He pledged that: "Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans.  This isn't just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls.  It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age."  He christened it the National Wireless Initiative....  » Full Story

Verizon Challenges U.S. FCC's New Internet Rules

Verizon Communications took the Federal Communications Commission to court on Thursday (Jan. 20) over its new Internet traffic rules, arguing the regulator had overstepped its authority.  The filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia fulfilled the predictions of many industry analysts that the FCC's split vote last month to impose the rules would be swiftly challenged.  Medley Global Advisors analyst Jeffrey Silva said there was a "reasonable chance" the court would strike down the rules that prevent network operators from blocking lawful content but still let them ration access to their networks....  » Full Story

House E&C Signals Hearing on FCC 'Abuse of Authority and Process'

According to a Jan. 18 backgrounder document on the "key issues" before the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee obtained by B&C, nullification of the FCC's network neutrality rules is high on the communications and technology agenda, as is looking into the "abuse of power and process" of the Comcast/NBCU transaction review.  The document indicates that Republican Committee Chairman Fred Upton's strategy to block network neutrality rules the FCC approved Dec. 21 will be through a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act.  That legislative gambit requires a simple majority in both chambers and can't be filibustered in the Senate, the document points out....  » Full Story

Comcast/NBCU Deal Approved by Justice

As expected, the Justice Department Jan. 18 followed the FCC in approving the Comcast/NBCU deal, contingent upon various agreements with the company, including that it will relinquish any management rights in Hulu.  Technically, that approval consists of first filing suit against the deal, and then announcing the settlement agreement that, with conditions, makes it acceptable.  Justice said the deal will "preserve new content distribution models that offer more products and greater innovation, and the potential to provide consumers access to their favorite programming on a variety of devices in a wide selection of packages."  Justice's conditions on the deal mirror those of the FCC, according to an FCC source, which includes prohibiting Comcast from "unreasonably discriminating in the transmission of an OVD's lawful network traffic to a Comcast broadband customer."  » Full Story

FCC Approves Comcast/NBCU Deal

The FCC commissioners voted Jan. 18 to give the green light to Comcast to team up with NBC Universal in a $30-billion joint venture, according to two sources close to the commissioners.  The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Copps voting against it, providing a ringing dissent.  A veteran media consolidation critic, Copps had all along said its approval was a very steep hill for him, and ultimately it proved too high for him to climb.  As expected, the Justice Department followed the FCC in approving the Comcast/NBCU deal.  The FCC was reviewing the deal for its impact on the public interest, while Justice focuses on competition issues.  The FCC commissioners had been vetting a draft approval circulated last month, and made some edits, but sources say the draft is essentially the same.  Comcast has signaled it could live with the conditions the FCC proposed....  » Full Story