FCC Meeting Cancelled

Tod Hunter
WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission canceled its meeting scheduled for Thursday, which included proposals on cable regulation and free wireless Internet.

A letter from Senator Jay Rockefeller, D – W.Va., and Representative Henry Waxman, D - Calif., to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin recommended that the commission should focus on next year’s transition to digital television. In the letter, Rockefeller and Waxman called the digital-TV transition set for February the FCC’s “most important challenge” and said that considering unrelated initiatives would be “counterproductive.” Rockefeller is the incoming chairman of the Senate commerce committee and Waxman is his counterpart in the House. The committees oversee the FCC.

The letter came three days after House Democrats issued a report saying Martin abused his powers by suppressing information and manipulating data. Martin, a Bush appointee, is expected to be replaced as FCC chair by Barack Obama after next month’s inauguration, although his term as FCC commissioner does not expire until 2011.

The proposed agenda for Dec. 18 meeting had included a proposal to create a free wireless porn-free broadband network as a part of a deal to auction off the airwaves for commercial development of broadband Internet services. Other proposals on the agenda were aimed at expediting the resolution of disputes over programmers’ access to cable systems and investigating whether cable companies and broadcasters should be able to dictate channel packages.

Waxman and Rockefeller said the FCC should focus on the digital TV transition, putting off consideration of “complex and controversial items that the new Congress and the new administration will have an interest in reviewing.”

The lawmakers said “serious questions are being raised” about U.S. readiness for the transition, which is scheduled for Feb. 17.