IN PERSPECTIVE: Something special

Fri, 11/30/2007 - 7:20pm
Brian Santo, Editor

Brian Santo

Who could have guessed
that Kevin Martin would
turn out to be a uniter,
not a divider?

The telecommunications industry is intimately familiar with the FCC and the people running it, but for most Americans, the FCC is like an appendix – something they know is there but is completely irrelevant until it gets inflamed and fines Howard Stern.

Of course, people can get an appendectomy, so I guess the analogy only goes so far. But I digress…

The U.S. government is vast, and it generates an unfathomable number of laws, regulations, rules and provisions. Many of them are so abstruse that even when invoked, frequently only specialists understand the ramifications – which is why the rapid development of a backlash against FCC Chairman Kevin Martin invoking the obscure clause from the 1984 Cable Act is so astonishing.

Martin has long criticized the cable industry, but had little or no authority to force MSOs to lower prices, open access to their private networks, or grant consumers significantly greater control over the content delivered to them. Recently, he found a tool he believed would give him that power: the Cable Act’s 70/70 rule.

I haven’t actually verified this, but I am pretty confident that the National Congress of Black Women does not have a subscription to CED. So when the editor of CED starts getting phone calls from the likes of the NCBW, presenting a well-informed argument why the 70/70 rule could not have been tripped – well, that’s how I can tell Kevin Martin has gone too far.

I have minority groups, right-wing think tanks, and rural consumer advocates calling me and sending me press releases to make sure I’m aware of their opposition to Martin invoking the 70/70 rule – not to mention the other two Republican appointees to the commission and a large group of House Republicans all expressing reservations.

I am really, honestly, agog. I don’t think I could have imagined Jesse Jackson and Grover Norquist agreeing on anything. Who could have guessed that Kevin Martin would turn out to be a uniter, not a divider?


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