Republican lawmakers who once expected a united GOP front on their Federal
Communications Commission agenda are having to think again following Thursday's
defeat of agency chairman Michael Powell's plan to deregulate local telephone-competition rules.
House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin called
coup leader FCC commissioner Kevin Martin a "renegade Republican" in a strongly worded statement
issued after Martin and the commission's two Democrats defeated Powell's plan to
eliminate local telephone-unbundling requirements.
Tauzin branded Martin a "soulmate" and "ideological brother" of previous
Democratic chairmen Reed Hundt and William Kennard. Regulatory reform, Tauzin
charged, had been "stabbed in the back" by Martin.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the Commerce panel's Telecommunications
Subcommittee, also condemned Martin's coup.
"The wrangling behind Powell's back was inexcusable," Upton said. "This is a
serious matter with American jobs and technology advancement hanging in the
Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Commerce's Science, Technology and Space
Subcommittee, suggested that Martin's confirmation was a mistake.
"In future considerations of FCC nominees, I will examine carefully their
interpretations of current telecommunications law," Brownback said.
Even a Democratic senator who supported the outcome of Martin's revolt
nevertheless worried that a split FCC will lead to turmoil in the telecommunications
"I fear that the commission today has missed an important opportunity to
speak with one voice and to provide greater certainty," said Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.),
ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee.