Legislation and Regulation

Copps identifies his public interest priorities for the FCC

John Eggerton, Multichannel News

An 'Exit Interview' With Federal Communications Commission's Acting Chief

Federal Communications Commission commissioner and former Acting Chairman Michael Copps talked to Multichannel News Washington Bureau chief John Eggerton last week about getting the broadband plan right, the push by Ion Media for digital cable carriage and more.

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Harvard’s Berkman Center to conduct independent review of broadband studies for FCC

Berkman Center

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University will conduct an independent expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment and usage throughout the world. This project will help inform the FCC’s efforts in developing the National Broadband Plan.

“Advanced communications have the potential to enhance the lives of all Americans, improve public safety, create jobs, and support our economic recovery,” Chairman Julius Genachowski said. “As the Commission embarks on the important task of crafting a National Broadband Plan, better data will inform and animate the activities of the agency. The Berkman Center’s independent review of existing information will help lay the foundation for enlightened, data-driven decisionmaking. I appreciate the Berkman Center’s invaluable assistance and look forward to seeing the results.”

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What's in a NOFA? First impressions of the government's plans to distribute broadband stimulus funds

Harold Feld, Tales from the Sausage Factory

It's time for the NOFA awards!

No, not the actual giving out of money, silly. My snarky commentary on last week's unveiling of [the federal government's broadband stimulus website] Broadband.gov.

I'll preface by saying I absolutely still love and respect the folks I know on the inside who struggled with this stuff for months. I know how hard it is to actually implement this stuff, especially with this kind of ridiculous schedule and no one appreciating what it takes to coordinate among this many agencies and how utterly devestated the federal workforce was following 8 years of the Bushies refusing to invest in information technology, outsourcing everything to contractor cronies, and elevating political loyalty over actual talent.

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Newspapers in Washington get key 40% tax break

Associated Press

As newspapers across the country struggle through a brutal economic climate, papers in Washington state are getting a tax break.

A new law that gives newspaper printers and publishers a 40 percent cut in Washington's main business tax took effect this week, providing some much-needed relief to the business after a year in which The Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed its final edition and other papers suffered drastic cutbacks.

"It's not a bailout, because it's not enough money," said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, the Democrat who sponsored the measure. "But it is our way of saying to the newspapers that we do believe you're incredibly important to our state and our democracy."

The Society of Professional Journalists and the National Conference of State Legislatures was not aware of any other state that has granted a similar tax break to the newspaper industry.

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Federal broadband grants tied to strict net neutrality rules

Ryan Singel, Wired

Two federal agencies are now ready to hand out $4 billion in grants and loans to help bring broadband to the people and stimulate the economy, but applicants have to promise to play fairly with whatever devices, applications and services users want to use, vice president Joe Biden announced today.

Rural and inner-cities are likely to see the bulk of the benefits from the Broadband USA project, as the Department of Agriculture set aside $1.2 billion in infrastructure funds for rural ISPs and $800 million for so-called middle mile projects that connect ISPs to the internet’s backbone. The Commerce Department separately set aside $1.2 billion for infrastructure, up to $50 million for public computer centers such as libraries and up to $150 million to convince people that broadband tastes good enough to subscibe to.

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Genachowski arrives at FCC, announces staff

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

Julius Genachowski was sworn in yesterday as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, beginning a tenure that is expected to bring more attention to new mobile and Internet technologies.

Genachowski also announced his key staff, stressing the private and public sector experience they will bring to the agency. Genachowski has been widely lauded for his experience in Washington as an entrepreneur and later as an investor. He served two clerkships and as general counsel for former FCC chairman Reed Hundt.

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Genachowski approved to chair FCC


The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the Obama administration's nomination of Julius Genachowski, a telecommunications industry executive, to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Genachowski is set to chair the five-member panel that will be dominated by Democrats seeking to bring more power to consumers and extend high-speed Internet access to rural parts of the United States.

The Senate also approved renewing the FCC term for Republican Robert McDowell.

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Industry-friendly Bush insider Meredith Baker is likely final nominee for FCC

Kim McAvoy, TVNewsday

Meredith Attwell Baker, in a speech in Washington last fall, made clear her belief in minimal regulation of broadcasting.

Given the "robust and diverse media marketplace, government would do best to tread lightly," the then-head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration told a Media Institute audience.

She endorsed the FCC's relaxation of the newspaper/crossownership rule, calling it long overdue, and she said it would be a mistake to resurrect the fairness doctrine. "A return of this doctrine would be like a U-turn on the road of progress."

She also criticized an FCC proposal to mandate local broadcast programming.

"[I]t seems antithetical to impose a new set of requirements on broadcasters for purposes of improving their responsiveness to the local communities they serve," she said.

"Lest we forget, the presence of television and radio broadcast stations in their local communities and their production of local-oriented programming are among the most salient features that differentiate broadcasters from their competitors."

At the time, the speech meant little. Baker was never a player in the policy debates on Capitol Hill or at the FCC. And, besides, by the time the speech was delivered on Nov. 20, she was a lame duck, on her way out along with every other Bush appointee.

But the speech has now taken on new significance as Baker has emerged as the leading candidate to fill the vacant Republican seat on the FCC.

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Senators praise Genachowski, growl at FCC

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

The White House's nominee for chair of the Federal Communications Commission got a movie-star reception from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Tuesday. Julius Genachowski was praised and courted by senators on both sides of the aisle throughout his confirmation testimony. And Republican Commissioner Robert M. McDowell, nominated for a new term, also received a warm welcome.

But the FCC itself didn't come in for many compliments, especially from committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). "Fix this agency," he told Genachowski. "Or we will fix it for you."

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Congressman files bill to stop tiered broadband pricing

Stacey Higginbotham, GigaOM

Rep. Eric Massa (D-Corning) today introduced legislation that would force Internet Service Providers that want to implement usage-based pricing plans to go through several regulatory hurdles, including public hearings, to determine if such pricing is anti-competitive. Such usage-based plans may involve tiered pricing or caps based on the amount of data downloaded.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey