House E&C Signals Hearing On FCC 'Abuse of Authority and Process' - Broadcasting & Cable

House E&C Signals Hearing On FCC 'Abuse of Authority and Process'

Committee background briefing paper lists FCC's Comcast merger review as one of those abuses
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According to a Jan. 18 backgrounder document on the
"key issues" before the House Energy & Commerce Committee's
Communications and Technology Subcommittee obtained by B&C, nullification
of the FCC's network neutrality rules is high on the communications and
technology agenda, as is looking into the "abuse of power and
process" of the Comcast/NBCU transaction review.

The document indicates that Republican Committee
Chairman Fred Upton's strategy to block network neutrality rules the FCC
approved Dec. 21 will be through a resolution of disapproval under the
Congressional Review Act. That legislative gambit requires a simple majority in
both chambers and can't be filibustered in the Senate, the document points out.

Upton has signaled that nullifying that vote would be
one of the committee's initial priorities under new Republican leadership. The
FCC's two Republicans voted against the new regs and strongly opposed them
in their dissenting statements.

Also on the docket for the committee is a "series of
hearings" on "the harm regulation of the Internet will cause investment,
innovations and jobs" as well as the FCC's "abuse of authority and
process."

Also on the agenda for the committee is a bill-auctioning
spectrum for broadband, which the document says "might" include
incentive auctions allowing the proceeds to be shared with those, like
broadcasters, who voluntarily relinquish it.

Under the heading of "FCC process reform," the
briefing paper says that the FCC has been criticized as "slow, inefficient
and less than transparent," and that "network neutrality and the
"Comcast transaction" are "the latest examples of abuse of power
and process."

The backgrounder says the National Telecommunication
and Information Administration's oversight of the broadband stimulus-funding
program is subject to "waste, fraud and abuse."

Also on the list of priorities is reform of universal
service, with the document indicating Upton would support migrating the fund to
broadband support only "in exchange for substantial fiscal
reform." The FCC is migrating the fund to broadband as part of the
National Broadband Plan, but also has recognized it needs fiscal reform.

The Commerce & Trade Subcommittee's oversight of the
Federal Trade Commission will include its effort to get expanded authority,
which Republicans oppose, and criticisms by industry with the "direction
of the FTC's regulatory priorities."

Listed as other "possible" topics for the
Communications Subcommittee's attention include Internet privacy, cyber
security and content protection.

A committee spokesperson could not be reached at press time
for comment on the document.

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