Dingell Sympathizes With Cable's Concerns About FCC


Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) stopped just short of agreeing with his predecessor that the FCC was picking on the cable industry.

In a speech to approximately 300 executives in Washington for NCTA's Key Contacts Conference-- essentially a meet-and-greet opportunity with legislators-- Dingell said that while he could not say that the FCC picked on any industry, he could say that "sometimes their process is neither open, nor is it transparent, nor is it fair."

"I can understand how you might feel that the FCC is picking on your industry," he said. He promised thorough oversight of the commission, including phone calls, letters and hearings when necessary to insure that the cable industry--and all industries--are being treated fairly.

Former Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who has taken cable's side on several issues, wrote a letter to the FCC commissioners Tuesday suggesting the commission was picking on cable.

Dingell said oversight didn't mean hauling people up to the Hill to beat on them or make them take the fifth, but instead to make sure the process was open, transparent and fair.

Dingell told the crowd he thought the FCC should divide up the soon-to-be auctioned analog broadcast spectrum into small geographic areas to allow more people to bid on them.  He said that the move will increase competition.

Dingell said his committee would be working on a "comprehensive national broadband strategy"  and pointed to new figures that showed U.S. broadband penetration had slipped from 12th to 15th .

On the broadband rollout issue,  Dingell differed with the cable industry, which finds some common ground with Martin in their emphasis of rollout successes.

In fact, NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow sent Dingell a letter earlier in the week stating that cable broadband is available to 94% of the U.S. and saying that "deployment and adoption of high-speed Internet service in the U.S. is a success story that shouldn't be portrayed as a failure because of misleading statistics.”

Dingell praised the cable industry for its role in that roll-out by calling it an "extraordinary" success story. That story, he said, was that "You have constantly found new ways to provide access to information and entertainment. And you have done so anytime and anywhere."