Blackburn Bill to Strip FCC Authority Even if Cable Reaches 70/70

House Energy & Commerce Committee Member: FCC Authority to Regulate Cable Industry ‘Anachronistic at Best and Potentially Dangerous at Worst’

Only hours after the Federal Communications Commission said it did not have sufficient data to conclude that the cable industry had met the so-called 70/70 threshold for possible regulation, a Republican member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee said she plans to introduce a bill that would prevent the FCC from using that benchmark to regulate cable even if the threshold were met.

Marsha Blackburn

The commission ruled Tuesday night that it must gather more information from the cable industry before determining whether the benchmark has been met. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee commended the decision not to push ahead with the 70/70 finding, as FCC chairman Kevin Martin had initially planned, but also said it was time to strip the FCC of that authority.

Blackburn called that 70/70 authority "anachronistic at best and potentially dangerous at worst," and she wants that authority repealed.

She added that the law -- passed in 1984 to ensure program diversity -- "provides the FCC authority to unilaterally regulate an industry, yet does not demand sound, scientific data to back up the market-penetration claim. In so doing," she said, "'70/70' authority allows for potentially nefarious abuse under a guise to regulate an already vibrant and competitive industry. The Consumer Freedom of Choice in Cable Act will eliminate that threat."

She also said the law was an anachronism in an age of lots of competition and choice -- a point also made by FCC commissioner Robert McDowell at the agency’s meeting Tuesday.