Tales of the Sausage Factory

Markey To Leave Telecom Subcommittee

As related in Doris Kearn Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, a friend remarked to Lincoln just before the election of 1864 that the only way Lincoln would lose would be if Grant won the war and then ran for President himself. To this Lincoln replied that he felt rather like a man who preferred not to die, but if he had to die, then he knew what he wanted to die of.

That rather conveys my feeling on the word that Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) will give up his post as Chair of the Telecom Subcommittee to take over the Energy Subcommittee. Throughout his tenure on the Telecom Subcommittee, Ed Markey has time and again proven himself a true friend of real people over special interests and fought vigorously and effectively to make sure that legislation worked for the benefit of all. Sophisticated on complex matters of technology and economics, Markey combined these throughout his tenure with a brilliant sense of political tactics.

OTOH, for the same reason, I can’t very well object to Markey moving to the vital area of energy. With an Administration and Congress now primed to act, it is more imperative than ever for someone who can see through the pretty power points and hand waving to shepherd through legislation that will genuinely promote renewable energy and energy independence rather than simply line the pockets of the usual suspects.

I am comforted by the fact that his likely replacement, Rep. Rick Boucher, has also proven himself a strong proponent of open networks, fair use, and using policy to promote vigorous competition. With Waxman as Committee Chair and Boucher as Telecom Subcomittee Chair, I am very hopeful for the future of telecom legislation and FCC oversight for the 111th Congress.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

700 MHz Endgame: Wholesale Open Access Down, But Not Quite Out.

Yesterday, the House Commerce Committee held its FCC Oversight hearing. As expected, the 700 MHz auction attracted a great deal of attention. As I wrote in previous entries, this was make or break time for wholesale open access. If Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Michigan) and Telecom Subcommittee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) voiced strong support, that might push Martin to adopt full wholesale open access in light of Google’s commitment to bid. OTOH, if the House Dems did not back wholesale, then Martin would be unlikely to budge.

Dingel and Markey did not back wholesale open access. Indeed, Dingell backed off slightly from his previous hard-line stance on even device open access (aka, “open access-lite” aka the “Martin plan”), asking for assurances that including such a condition would not hurt auction revenue or limit bidding. Markey, while enthusiastically supporting device open access and suggesting ways to improve it and make it effective, did not mention wholesale at all.

The biggest supporter of wholesale open access was Mike Doyle (D-PA), who gets a huge Sausage Factory cheer for stepping up to the challenge. You can see a clip of him asking the Commissioners where they stand on wholesale open access here. The good news is that Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathon Adelstein remained staunch in their defense of wholesale open access as a means of encouraging competition and deployment. Intriguingly, Martin did not slam the idea, but said this was not the place to do it because he had concerns about the incentives for network build out of wholesalers. McDowell remained adamant against (as he did against even Martin’s device open access proposal), although McDowell praised the pending FCC proceeding to open the broadcast “white spaces” for unlicensed use (which I hope he remembers when the time comes). Tate did not answer Doyle’s question (no time), but elsewhere said she was keeping an “open mind” on device open access.

Republicans, with the exception of Pickering (R-Miss) slammed Martin hard for supporting even device open access. To his credit, Martin defended the idea that the auction was not about maximizing revenue but about getting the best policy. But the near-uniform opposition to any conditions on licenses by Republicans, combined with the silence of key Democrats on wholesale, puts Martin in a real bind.

So what happens now? Are there any cards left to play, rabbits to pull out of hats, or Corbemite maneuvers to run that could still save wholesale open access. Yes, but they are very long odds indeed. With the vote now scheduled for July 31, we are just after the two minute warning and down a touchdown and a field goal.

More analysis below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

A 2-1 FCC?

Unbelievably, the vote on confirmation for Deborah Tate (the new Republican replacement for Kathleen Abernathy) and Michael Copps (Dem) (to sit another 5 year term) is delayed. Why? Because Senators act like 6 year olds.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

How SBC Lost TX- And What It means More Broadly

Sorry to all, especially John, for being on an unintended hiatus. Got lots poppin’ at work and at home.

In a down to the wire fight, SBC suffered major defeat in Texas on two major legislative initiatives: one to prohibit municipal broadband, the other to remove local franchising requirements for their new fiber systems. In response, SBC Alum and wholly owned subsidiary Pete Sessions (R-TX), to introduce a new federal anti-muni bill, reconfirming my view that most major corporations behave astounding like 6 year old children.

How the Bell companies blew it represents a fascinating case study. Contrary to what a few folks have suggested, it was not an “accident”. In fact, it may, possibly, suggests some interesting things about how progressive politics (by which I do not mean “Democratic Party” I mean genuinely progressive regardless of party) may work for the next few years. My lengthy random musings below . . .

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