A Possible Sea Change at the FCC

For the last eighteen months I felt as if the FCC thought the cable companies were too powerful as a result of many rulings which seemed to be in favor of the telcos. It seemed even when the telcos were in the wrong they wouldn’t really get in trouble and the cable companies seemed to have to walk on egg shells.

Now it seems that cable companies are going to see something come out the FCC which is to their benefit. BusinessWeek reports that the FCC is backing the cable companies over Verizon in a alleged marketing scheme having to do with Verizon not porting numbers immediately to cable companies but instead reaching out to the switching customers and offering them gifts and discounts to stay with Verizon.

What is interesting is that Chairman Kevin Martin was the lone dissenter on a 4-1 vote meaning all other commissioners were for this ruling.

Here is an excerpt from the article worth reading:

In an unusual move, on Saturday morning FCC member Robert McDowell released his formal statement that will accompany the formal announcement of the vote.

“Consistent with Congress’s intent and Commission precedent in the long-distance context, today we carry out Congress’s unambiguous mandate to protect consumer privacy in local markets as well,” he wrote.

Citing the “unusual circumstance” regarding McDowell’s release of his statement, Martin released his own, dissenting from the majority.

“I am concerned that today’s decision promotes regulatory arbitrage and is outcome driven,” he said. “It could thwart competition, harm rural America, and frustrate regulatory parity.”

Verizon issued a statement late Friday night, anticipating the commission vote, attributed to Tom Tauke, executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications. He said the commissioners decision was a “disappointing outcome” that “enables cable companies to lock in TV customers by forbidding Verizon from providing information about better voice services or prices.”

Comcast Corp. also released a statement, attributed to Catherine Avgiris, senior vice president and general manager of Comcast voice services.

“The FCC majority deserves the gratitude of all consumers for standing up for fair play and against anticompetitive tactics,” it read in part.

It should be noted that the FCC staff initially voted for Verizon in this matter. One wonders if this outcome will mark the beginning of a time when the cable companies will start to be happy with FCC rulings. Time will tell.

I am interested in Chairman Martin’s viewpoint on this issue and others so Chairman Martin, here is a formal invitation to come to ITEXPO and share your thoughts as a keynoter with the movers and shakers in the communications market.


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