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

If Both Survive the Lirpa , We Will Continue With The Ahn'woon.

Alright Net Neutrality fans, policy wonks, and children of all ages. Bring your quatloos and tune your internet browsers to Von TV on March 11 at 2 p.m. to see THE ULTIMATE STEEL CAGE DEATHMATCH TAG-TEAM POLICY SMACKDOWN ON NETWORK NEUTRALITY!!!!

Yes! For the edification, enlightenment, and entertainment of the policy world, I, yr hmbl obdn’t blogger, with Comcast Complaint Co-Counsel Marvin Ammori of Free Press, will square off against Progress and Freedom Foundation President Ken “the Assassin” Ferree and Phoenix Center President Lawrence “Terminator” Spiwak on the burning issue of network neutrality. As House Subcommittee Chariman Ed Markey (D-MA) once said: “This is no country for old broadband.” And I, personally, can assure you, There Will Be Blood. (If by “blood” we mean some “civil but very intense, passionate debate”).

“Not since the last Latke v. Hamentashen Debate has so much intellectual fire power, passion, and eloquence been mustered in one place on a vital issue of public policy.” — Random Policy Person

“Great background while multitasking.” — Overworked FCC staffer.

“A fantastic series of debates for a fantastic series of tubes.” –Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

So don’t you dare miss the action! Tuesday, March 11, 2 p.m., live on VonTV and absolutely free. I shall float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, as I and my co-counsel Ammori, make mincemeat out of Spiwak and Ferree!

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Markey-Pickering “Net Neutrality” Bill: Grinding Out One More First Down In The Internet Freedom Bowl.

God knows I love Ed Markey as one of the true defenders of us average folks. Time and again, he has proven himself that rare combination of smarts and political savvy to remain an effective champion against media consolidation and telco and cable interests even when he was minority member. Which is why it always pays to pay attention when he acts.

Markey’s latest bill, The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, H.R. 5353 (co-sponsored by retiring Republican “Chip” Pickering (R-MS)), would seem at first glance pretty weak gruel compared to his previous bill in 2006. So what lies behind this apparent retreat from an outright ban on ISPs discriminating to Congressional findings, a mandate for some FCC hearings, and a report? After all, with Markey chair of the Subcommittee, shouldn’t he be pushing something more aggressive? I mean, the Dems control both houses of Congress now, right?

The answer lies in the pragmatics of Washington and the recognition that — unlike in the movies — major battles aren’t won overnight. As I have said before, this is a long, messy fight in which both sides invest a heck of a lot of time and energy in positioning themselves and grinding out short yardage plays to advance the ball. Seen in that context, the Markey Bill is a very effective tool for both keeping the debate alive and advancing the ball another ten yards toward the goal post.

Analysis below . . .

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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

Markey to Take Telecom Subcommittee

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has confirmed he will take the Telecom Subcommittee rather than seek chairmanship of the Resources Committee.

I can’t think of better news to close out 2006. Ed Markey displays that rare, brilliant combination of staying true to his principles at all times while still working well in coalition and with his counterparts accross the aisle. On just about every issue I can think of: net neutrality, media ownership, privacy, fair use, consumer protection, digital inclusion, Ed Markey has been a champion and leader.

Whoooooo Hoooooooooo!!!!!!!!

Stay tuned!

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