Comcast's Cohen: Telecom Likely Low On Legislative Agenda


Comcast executive vice president David Cohen, Comcast's top Washington executive, said he has "high hopes" for the commission under new chairman Julius Genachowski, including an Internet openness policy that recognizes the need for reasonable network management.

Cohen also expects telecom issues to be relatively low on Congress' agenda.

"You could say that Julius Genachowski is the most qualified and prepared person ever to be named chairman of the FCC," he said. "We think he is going to be an outstanding chairman."

In an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series, Cohen said he thought Genachowski would have a good relationship with the top legislators with oversight of the commission.

But he also said he thought Congress would have a lot on its plate before it got around to FCC reform issues that have long been on the radar screen of one of those legislators, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

"Chairman Rockefeller is laser-focused on FCC process and the way in which it conducts its business," Cohen said. But he also pointed out that Rockefeller and House Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) oversee committees with broad jurisdiction. "They both have been pretty preoccupied with other public policy issues," he said, and doesn't see that changing.

Cohen noted that if you were to poll every member of Congress, he would be hard-pressed to find telecommunications issues on a list of the top 100 issues they felt they needed to deal with in the next couple of years.

He said that the cable and telecom industries should get some credit for that relative inattention from Congress, saying "we are conducting ourselves in appropriate ways" and pursuing agendas that serve the American people. However, he also said it was because the country is facing tougher problems. "Nobody is going to say that reform of the FCC is at the same level of priority as health care or the economy or energy or global warming or the budget or
immigration reform..."

Cohen said the cable industry wasn't looking for a lot of legislative help from Washington, echoing the company's and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's long-standing position. He added that the company had a strong interest in broadband adoption and the FCC's broadband planand that it is possible legislation might come out of that plan that the industry would be interested in.

Asked about the issue of net neutrality, Cohen replied: "This is a place where I am actually extremely comfortable that we have Julius Genachowski as chair of the FCC because he has lived on the private side of this equation."

Cohen said Comcast shared Genachowski's belief in an open Internet and in free access to it. And he also believes in reasonable and responsible network management because he understands in the absence of network management, these networks collapse."
But that said, the devil will be in the details, according to Cohen.

He pointed out that the FCC's four Internet principles -- to which some want it to add a fifth openness principle -- were adopted explicitly as principles, not regulations, but were "magically transformed" into regs by the FCC last year in an enforcement proceeding involving Comcast. The company has challenged that decision in court because of the way the principles morphed from uneforceable principles to enforceable regs without the proper procedures to
establish that.