April 5, 2005 12:20 PM PDT

New FCC chairman bullish on deregulation

Speaking for the first time in public, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin Martin, said he will continue favoring deregulation to foster change in the telecommunications industry.

Kevin Martin
Chairman, FCC
During an onstage interview at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association's annual convention, Martin also sounded off on the hot-button issue of TV indecency. Martin is expected to put a higher priority on media indecency than his predecessor. Although Martin has not confronted this issue yet, he said the growing tide of complaints makes him take the issue seriously. He remarked on the outpouring of complaints over the past few years, and appealed to the audience to be proactive about policing themselves.

"This is an opportunity to speak not just to me but to consumers and parents," Martin told the audience during an onstage interview with Fox News anchor Stuart Varney.

Although Martin's speech lasted only a few minutes before he was whisked offstage, he spoke briefly about the role the FCC should play in shaping the nation's broadband policy. Martin said he would continue down the path set by former FCC chairman Michael Powell by creating a "level playing field" between providers in a "deregulatory, not regulatory, fashion."

He applauded the cable industry for its estimated $95 billion investment to upgrade its coaxial networks to support digital and high-definition video, high-speed Internet access and phone services. The cable industry has reaped the rewards of this upgrade, and now owns the largest market share of broadband customers in the country.

Because of that investment, Martin said the cable industry has helped increase broadband penetration into more homes.

"You all have made the progress," he told the audience.

The cable industry has a lot of reasons to thank the FCC. The commission has maintained its hands-off approach to regulating cable in hopes of spurring more private investment to improve the industry. This approach has been controversial, especially among the Baby Bell phone companies, who by law are required by the government to share their DSL lines with competitors, though many of those requirements are being dismantled.

The FCC and the Bush Administration continue to fight off attempts to regulate cable. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether the FCC's classification of broadband as an "information service" should be preserved. The distinction is crucial--if cable is defined as having "telecommunications service" elements, local governments could impose regulations on cable broadband service.

The cable industry's arguments were presented to the courts by the Bush Administration.


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Hands off cable/satellite
It's heartening to hear the new FCC commissioner wants to give the industry some control back. But the FCC needs to take hands off cable, satellite, and pay-per-view outlets. Groups like the Parents' Television Council screamed for the V-chip and got it, plus outrageous fines for anything that even begins to approach conflicting with their sensibilities. As a cable customer I don't want the FCC reaching in with the same so-called cultural mandate for cleaning up TV when I pay for service. I and millions of fans do not want to see a scrubbed up "Queer As Folk" or "The Sopranos" - the "edge" on series like those is the only thing that makes cable/satellite palatable vs. the middle-of-the-road pablum that tries to pass for entertainment on the broadcast networks.
Posted by truegenius (33 comments )
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Start fining the group that is responsible for 98% of all complaints. Or at least ignore them.
Posted by pcLoadLetter (395 comments )
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Great, another empty uniform.
I hate the FCC.
Posted by Remo_Williams (488 comments )
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You have to love it...
These complaints about cussing and sex on cable. I wish they would provide number because my feeling is it is a very tiny number compared to the millions of TV viewers. Only the FCC would consider strangling cable because a very tiny few found something offensive.

The only time the FCC should get involved with this type of thing is if more than 50% of the TV watching public complains. This country works on the majority rules. That is how we elect our government and just about everything else. The FCC should not be making major changes or decisions based on the minority. This is the attitude that our bread dead president has taken as well as the California govenor. Intead of listening to the majority they do what their fan club which is in the minority says.

Posted by (336 comments )
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Conspiracy of complaint
Even his outgoing predecessor admitted that the majority of complaints to the FCC about decency are being made by a handful of organized pressure groups engaging in a conspiracy to simulate public dissatisfaction where little exists. It cannot be a secret that the volume of complaint being received is false and politicized, and it's not a good sign that he's pretending not to see--or worse, taking part in--the conspiracy against the public's right to see mature matter on cable tv...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
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