Yesterday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his colleagues fielded the questions of lawmakers during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that was the first since 2004 to feature all of the FCC’s commissioners. The event was also the first at which Martin, a Republican, was required to answer to the new Democratic majority in Congress on issues ranging from indecency on the nation’s airwaves to universal service to broadband accessibility. In addition, the FCC’s handling of the AT&T-BellSouth merger—and the conditions that the companies agreed upon in order to win FCC approval of that deal—proved to be a hot-button topic. Challenging an earlier joint statement by Martin and his Republican colleague, Deborah Tate, that net neutrality conditions agreed to by AT&T and BellSouth would not dictate FCC policy, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) asked Martin: “if you felt so strongly about this condition, do you think you had an obligation to withhold your vote and continue further negotiations?” Stressing that the FCC intends to enforce the conditions in connection with the merger, Martin explained that the companies’ pledges on net neutrality “did not mean we were changing our policy and were going to enforce those sorts of . . . requirements on others.” Further outlining his philosophy on net neutrality and on the desire of certain carriers to impose premium fees for the carriage of certain types of high-speed content, Martin warned Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), a co-sponsor of pending net neutrality legislation in the Senate, that prohibiting “any carrier who owns an underlying infrastructure from charging any content provider [extra fees] . . . could deter some investment in the underlying infrastructure.” Martin and his colleagues will return to Capitol Hill on February 15 to testify at a similar hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
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Senators question FCC members on AT&T-BellSouth merger and other topics
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
- February 2 2007
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