House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet

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House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet
Members, 109th Congress
Democrats: Republicans:

This subcommittee will be chaired by the current ranking Democrat Rep. Ed Markey (MA). Its focus is all matters regarding interstate or foreign electronic communications.

The official site for the 108th congress version of this comittee.

The most noticed issue during the previous congress was Net Neutrality which was supported by Markey. Other issues that might come up during the 110th congress,

  • FCC oversight, including the push for media consolidation (see Radio page for links to diaries about the nationwide attack on progressive radio stations)
  • Competition in the telecom marketplace, including the AT&T-Bellsouth merger
  • Video 'national franchise' vs 'local franchise' laws
  • Nationwide broadband penetration / municipal broadband
  • "Multicast must carry" laws for digital TV
  • HDTV transition, including money for HDTV-to-analog converter boxes.
  • Direct-to-consumer drug and alcohol advertising.
  • anti "cramming" laws
  • anti-pretexting laws
  • Revisiting the 1996 telecommunications act
  • ICANN governance (internet domain names)
  • Cybersecurity
  • Email SPAM
  • Online Child Predators
  • VoIP regulation
  • Interoperability of public safety communication systems
  • Broadcast decency standards
  • Recording industry marketing practices

News

Background - Video franchising laws get less buzz than Net Neutrality but video franchising is the real big money fight in the communications sector. A video franchise is a local municipality's license to a company to broadcast TV, normally these licenses require "buildout" of the broadcasting service to the entire community. Cable companies have been acquiring these licenses for years and have been forced to build-out their networks to poor and rich communities alike. In the last few years telecoms like Verizon and AT&T have been trying to roll-out competing video service over new fiber networks that would also carry phone and internet. But, they don't want to play by the old video franchising rules, they don't want to negotiate with individual municipalities or be forced to do full local build-outs. They have been trying to get congress to reform the video franchising laws nationwide. Cable companies have been opposed because they already had to negotiate the franchises but at the same time they have been aggressively moving into the telecoms' territory with phone service. For consumers this is mostly good news since it will increase competition and force cable providers to lower their fees, but some worry that poor neighborhoods will be left out if there aren't any build-out requirements for the new services. Now, the FCC has ruled unilaterally to restrict local regulation. The cable companies will immediately sue the FCC accusing them of over-stepping their authority. Chairmen Ed Markey (MA) seemed to side with the cable companies and worried that the FCC has "upstaged" congress.
  • MARKEY SEEKS TELECOM PANEL CHAIR Press Release 11/30/2006 Ed Markey will take the chairmanship of the HSTI.
Background - This is great news for Net Neutrality as Markey was one of the main proponents of the legislation. He is also known as a big supporter of consumers, privacy and PBS.
  • Congressional Leaders Seek Ban Delay - News Multichannel 11/28/2006 Three Republican chairmen sent a letter to the FCC requesting a delay on the ban of set-top boxes with integrated security features. The Republicans are Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton and HSTI chairman Fred Upton.
Background - This is about the FCC's requirement that cable companies start using CableCards. CableCards will allow cable customers to get rid of cable set-top boxes by either plugging their cable line directly into a CableCard-ready TV or into 3rd party set-top boxes such as the new Tivo. This will be great for consumers but as usual Republicans don't care about consumers, only their big corporate campaign contributors. The FCC originally mandated CableCard technology be developed by 2000 as part of the 1996 Telecomm law and a deadline was set for January 2005 to begin deployment, that was delayed twice to July 2006 and now July 2007. The cable companies sued the FCC for another delay and lost that case in August[1]. So now they've gone running to their congressional puppets for help. The cable companies make $2.5 billion a year leasing set-top boxes to consumers.
  • - Internet Freedom Preservation Act S. 2917 submitted by Scott Burns on May 19, 2006.
Background - This is a bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to insure net neutrality sponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe (ME) and Senator Byron Dorgan (ND). The bill would make it the duty of broadband service providers (BSP) to insure that all internet users will be equal with regards to internet access. The BSP's will provide the same quality service to all internet users and will not discriminate against any users with respect to quality of service, access, speed and bandwidth. During the 109th Congress this bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill was killed in a partisan vote (Democrats yea, Republicans nay) with the lone except of Senator Olympia Snowe voting for the bill. In 2005 then chairman of SBC Ed Whitacre Jr said in an interview with Business Week, "The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes free is nuts!". What followed was a grass roots uprising by various interested parties to prevent the BSP's from implementing discriminatory access to the internet. While the BSP's argued that they needed to recover their investments in building out the infrastructure the grassroots argued that allowing this to happen would make the BSP's the internet's GateKeeper. On January 9, 2007 Republican Senator Olympia Snowe and Democrat Byron Dorgan again presented the Internet Freedom Preservation Act to the Senate.

Blog Posts

Why Network Neutrality Will Be Law in 2007 - Jason Pontin, Huffington Post 12/1/2006

No Slam Dunk for Net Neutrality (with apologies to George Tenet) - Art Brodsky, TPMCafe 11/28/2006

Net Neutrality Act On the Agenda Again - Posted by kdawson, Slashdot Politics for Nerds. Your Vote Matters. 1/30/2007

Study: Abandoning net neutrality discourages improvements in service - Posted by DuvallBuck 03/09/2007

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