Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) will give up the chairmanship of the Telecommunications & Internet Subcommitee to concentrate on energy policy. The top telecom post will go to Rick Boucher (D-VA).
Markey today will be named chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy & Air Quality, with the current chairman of that Subcommittee, Boucher, trading gavels to take over atop the subcommittee that oversees communications and media issues.
There had been talk for the past couple of days that the two could switch chairmanships. Boucher has been an active member of the Telecom subcommittee, particularly on new media issues.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to chair the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet for the 111th Congress," said Boucher. "The new position gives me the opportunity to further my work to shape telecommunications policy, including expanding access to broadband and ensuring a successful DTV transition.”
Boucher takes over as Congress ponders what to do about concerns the DTV transition could be messy. Boucher is working on a bill that would provide a multimillion-dollar subsidy for rooftop digital antennas to help viewers who might lose TV station signals with the change from analog to digital Feb. 17. A similar bill has already been introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. There is also a push to delay that transition date.
Boucher said in an interview Monday that he expected Markey to make the bid, and if so, would seek the post atop Telecommunications & Internet, which oversees communications issues and of which he is already an active member as co-chair.
Boucher, a 13-term representative from Southwest Virginia, has taken a strong interest in new media issues, helping launch the House Internet Caucus in 1996 and currently co-chairing the 180-member group. He is a fan of network neutrality legislation, which puts him on the same page as President-Elect Barack Obama.
Public Knowledge, which advocates for public use rights in the digital age, praised Markey's tenure and welcomed Boucher to the top telecom spot.
“We are delighted with the selection of Rep. Boucher as the chairman of the Telecom Subcommittee," said Public Knowledge President GiGi Sohn. "Mr. Boucher is a champion of the Internet, one of the co-founders of the Congressional Internet Caucus and dedicated to bringing technological innovation to our economy."
Boucher is a former Virginia state senator and a native of Abingdon, VA.
Markey is expected to remain a member of the telecom subcommittee.