Embattled Martin Defends Phone Ruling

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Embattled Republican Federal Communications Commission member Kevin Martin
Wednesday defended his decision last week to side with FCC Democrats and scuttle
a major phone-deregulation program favored by agency chairman Michael
Powell.

Appearing before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the
Internet, Martin took another round of rhetorical blows from Energy and Commerce
Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and subcommittee chairman Fred Upton
(R-Mich.) before getting a chance to explain his actions.

Martin said his support for allowing the state regulators to decide when to
remove monopoly restraints on the Baby Bells was consistent with federal-court
mandates that competition had to be studied on a "market-by-market" basis and
that blanket national rules were not always appropriate or consistent with a
"granular analysis" of market conditions.

Tauzin picked up where he left off last week when he accused Martin of
abandoning Powell on a major policy initiative. At one point, Tauzin compared
the FCC decision to Klaus von Bulow, who was acquitted of attempting to murder
his heiress wife, Sunny, with insulin overdoses that left her comatose.

"What we've seen . is the bureaucratic equivalent of Klaus von Bulow, giving
its sick patient another lethal dose of poisonous uncertainty, extended
regulatory confusion and subsidized phony competition," Tauzin said.

Powell, who refused to use his clout to block the Martin coalition from
prevailing, told the House panel the phone decision flew in the face of mandates
from the Supreme Court and lower tribunals.

"I personally and professionally believe the decision is substantially flawed
legally on a number of points," he added.

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