Senators Question FCC Panel

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee this week had the opportunity to question FCC Commissioners in a broad oversight hearing. The FCC’s spectrum auction proceeding was high on the radar of Senators, including Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who declared, “the auction must be driven by one simple principle -- it must maximize the resources available for the construction of a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for first responders.”  Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) also highlighted spectrum availability, as well as the general state of communications law: “It is time for this Committee to take a look at modernizing our nation’s rules and regulations to better reflect today’s converged marketplace. Our technology and telecommunications sectors have been profoundly changed by the Internet, yet much of our country’s communications laws were written in a pre-Internet world.” Senator Thune suggested the possibility of new FCC reauthorization legislation. 

Significantly, Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Chairman of the Communications, Technology, and Internet Subcommittee, has plans for a number of information gathering hearings this spring, among them hearings on the state of wireless communications and the state of video, which will assess “media consolidation, marketplace issues, and other competitive concerns.”

Also of note, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) pressed hard on the Commissioners to exercise existing authority to force disclosure of political TV ad donors. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), however, underlined the deep divisions on the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 148) and warned the Commission not get into the partisan debate, which could "undermine the integrity of the Commission and imperil the independence of the Commission."

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations

Published: March 15, 2013