Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.)
continued to hammer on the FCC's network neutrality rules.
Although that is primarily a cable and telco issue, he pitched it to a
broadcast audience as a threat to them as well as part of a possible wider
The FCC expanded and codified its network neutrality rules
over the objections of FCC and House Republicans, including Upton, who pledged
to block them.
Speaking to the National Association of Broadcasters State
Leadership Conference in Washington,
Upton said that the Communications
Subcommittee, headed by former broadcaster Greg Walden (R-Ore.),
would be marking up a resolution of disapproval that would invalidate the
rules. He said he expected the subcommittee to pass it and cited House Speaker John
Boehner's indication that it could get floor action sometime this month.
The conference is an opportunity for broadcasters to take to
the Hill and FCC en masse to push their issues. Upton
told them network neutrality should be one of those.
"You should be talking to your members about this
issue. A lot of us don't feel the FCC has the right to impose net neutrality on
private companies. There is no authority for [them] to do this."
Why should broadcasters care? "You wonder if they can do this, what else can they do. Retransmission? An issue that we have debated
over the years, the Fairness Doctrine, or even ascertainment...that
some members of the FCC [Michael Copps most prominently] believe
they have the right to do. This is perhaps the first step of many steps the FCC
would like to take, and we're going to try to stop them..."
Ascertainment was the former broadcaster obligation to
seek out community input on programming to community needs. Broadcasters argue
they do that already, with viewers registering their vital input with the
That ascertainment obligation was removed as part of
broadcast dereg under President Ronald Reagan. Copps has been
arguing that broadcasters' current license renewalis little more that a
pro forma exercise, and that the government should require more of a public
service showing to earn that renewal.