A familiar Hill face, though in a powerful
new post, was calling on the FCC to weigh in on retrans this week, recalling a
similar request when Fox and Cablevision were battling it out in 2010. In that
case, the FCC did reach out to both sides to justify the good faith of their
Communications Subcommittee chairman and now Senate Commerce Committee member
Ed Markey (D-Mass.), wrote FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn this week to ask
that the FCC step in to get the parties to the table. "I request that the
Commission take action to bring the parties together so these negotiations can
be concluded in an equitable and expeditious manner," he wrote.
He said he was not
taking sides on the dispute, saying those were contractual relations between
particularly concerned about reports that CBS was not allowing access to its
Internet video by Time Warner Cable broadband customers.
He pointed out that
he was primary author of the Cable Act in 1992 and the author of the first
network neutrality bill in the House, and said blocking access to Internet
content was an anti-consumer result the FCC should \investigate, suggesting it
was a case of consumers losing access to the Internet content of their choice,
which the FCC's Open Internet order suggests is a network neutrality violation.
The FCC's Open
Internet order prevents ISPs from blocking such access, but in this case it is
the ISP that is not getting access.
It is not the first
time an online access issue in a retrans dispute has prompted Markey to call
for FCC action.
Back in 2010, then
Rep. Markey wrote an extremely similar letter to then FCC Chairman Julius
about a high-profile Fox/Cablevision blackout, also involving New York,
pointing out that he had authored the Cable Act, saying he was not
weighing in on either side because they were contractual relations and saying
he was concerned about reports that Fox was blocking Cablevision sub access to
That letter was
written before the FCC's Open Internet order, so Markey invoked the FCC's
then-uncodified Broadband Policy Statement of 2005 which said that consumers
should have access to the lawful Internet content of their choice." (The
FCC's Open Internet order essentially took those same principles and made them
rules, though Verizon is challenging them in court.
In that case,
Genachowski did step in to the extent that Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake asked both sides to
explain how their negotiations square with the law that requires those
negotiations to be "in good faith." The FCC under Genachowski
interpreted its powers as limited to insuring those good faith negotiations.
Lake also asked each
side to provide any evidence against the other side if they had it. Both sides
A spokesperson for
the acting chairwoman had no comment at press time on whether Lake, who is still Media
Bureau chief, would be similarly reaching out for some answers this time around.