Martin, GOP commissioners differ on interpretation


There is a major disagreement among Republican members of the Federal
Communications Commission over how to interpret Congress' mandate to review
commission rules.

Commissioner Kevin Martin, in a dissent from a report on the biennial review
of telecommunications rules, took a more deregulatory view of the "necessary to
the public interest" standard for retaining FCC rules than the other Republican

This could become an issue in the current biennial review of
broadcast-ownership regulations, also part of the congressionally mandated
review stemming from the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The FCC is currently
deciding which broadcast-ownership rules are necessary to the public interest
and which are not.

The biennial telecommunications report, dated Dec. 31, was released Monday
along with the eight-page partial dissent from Martin.

The disagreement turns on the meaning of the word "necessary" in Section 11
of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That is the provision that requires the FCC
to review its rules with an eye toward jettisoning those that are "no longer
necessary in the public interest."

The majority, saying it wanted to spell out its reading of the word for the
first time, interpreted necessary as "useful, meaningful and appropriate,"
rather than restrictive to only those rules that are absolutely essential.

Martin, in contrast, calling the majority reading "untenable" and interpreted
"necessary" as "indispensable."

Both cited court cases supporting their readings.