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FCC Chair, Senate Commerce Chair In Contentious Hearing

February 2, 2007

All five Federal Communications Commission members appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday.

They were there to discuss their views of the state of the telecommunications industry. The FCC commissioners, who currently carry a party balance of three Republicans and two Democrats, faced a panel helmed by the new Committee Chairman, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

Inouye greeted FCC Chair Kevin Martin and his four colleagues by saying that "the communications revolution does not come without risk. As public servants, both here in Congress and in the [FCC], we must be vigilant in our oversight to ensure that the communications industry evolves in a manner that does not harm consumers."

Chairman Martin's comments would seem to indicate a philosphical difference with Sen. Inouye.

"Faced with such fast-paced technological change, the Commission has tried to make decisions based on a fundamental belief that a robust competitive marketplace - not regulation - is ultimately the greatest protector of the public interest," Inouye said. Martin added specifics of strong telecom sector performance, lower prices, increasing broadband access and more consumer choices in his justirfication for reporting that the communications industry is in a strong position.  

Not content to let the session proceed with happy talk, Chairman Inouye asked Commissioner Martin how he would oversee any necessary enforcement of AT&T's net neutrality conditions it agreed to in order to let  the Bell-South merger go through.

Martin implied the FCC would keep an eye out to enforce the commitments that AT&T volunarily agreed to. Still, Martin emphasized "that did not mean we were changing our policy and were going to enforce those sorts of Net neutrality requirements on others."

Follow this link to an archived Webcast of the hearing.

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