Dingell Seeks FCC Answers On Set-Tops, Spectrum Auctions

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The House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee will hold an FCC oversight hearing July 24, with all the commissioners scheduled to be in attendance.

Saying he appreciated FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's participation given recent eye surgery that made it tough for him to read, John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee, still had a lot of questions he wanted Martin to bone up on for the hearing.

With the FCC considering setting aside some of the 700 mHz analog TV spectrum--being auctioned early next year--for a public-private interoperable public safety communications network, Dingell wants to know how that will work. Specifically, he asked Martin to outline how the government will guarantee the network is built and operational if the private side of that partnership falls on financial hard times or the two sides cannot agree on how the network is to operate, or if local emergency responders are allowed to opt out of the network.

He also wants to know more about the chairman's plan to apply some type of open access conditions on a portion of the spectrum being auctioned.


Chairman Dingell additionally wants to know how the FCC decided to grant some waivers, and not grant others, to its July 1 deadline for separating the security and channel-surfing functions of cable's digital set-top boxes.

The FCC had already delayed implementing the ban, which was meant to spur a retail market in set-tops. Chairman Martin has said the FCC was not going to grant a general waiver for the industry, but that the commission would look at waivers on a case-by-case basis. In a batch of waiver grants and denials June 29 (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6456934.html?q=waiver), the commission made going all-digital by February 2009, the date for the analog-to-digital switch, a criterion for granting some of the waivers. Dingell wants to know why. He also wants to know why waivers were granted for some low cost set-tops, but not for others.

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