GOP's Lott Critical of Powell's FCC

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Washington -- Sen. Trent Lott, the Senate's top Republican, criticized the
Federal Communications Commission under the leadership of Republican chairman
Michael Powell Monday, pointing to at least three areas where he thinks the
agency is drifting in the wrong direction.

'I am not comfortable with how they are proceeding,' Lott (R-Miss.) said in
remarks to a National Association of Broadcasters conference held at a downtown
hotel here.

Lott's decision to speak out marked a turning point in Powell's 13-month
tenure as chairman. To date, he has been the focus of admiring media profiles,
and he has been hailed for his fresh thinking by lobbyists and members of
Congress in both parties.

To highlight just how much he disagrees with Powell, Lott said he found
himself sometimes agreeing more with Democratic FCC member Michael Copps than
with Powell and Republican commissioners Kathleen Abernathy and Kevin
Martin.

In outlining his concerns, Lott mentioned Powell by title but not by name,
and he did not mention the other FCC members by name.

Lott, the Senate Minority Leader, said he had the sense that Powell did not
favor retaining the rule that caps a TV-station owner at 35 percent of TV
households nationally. Last week, a federal appeals court sent the rule back to
the FCC.

'The chairman has been pretty outspoken about that,' Lott told reporters
later. 'I am not opposed to any changes there. But just to take it off, I think,
is a big, big problem.'

Lott also questioned Powell's proposals, announced two weeks ago, which would
modify or eliminate some of the network-sharing rules imposed on large incumbent
phone companies that offer broadband Internet access.

'Now they are beginning to push into areas that I think clearly are a
mistake,' Lott said.

Lastly, he scolded the FCC for postponing a decision on whether Northpoint
Technology Ltd. should be allowed to share direct-broadcast satellite spectrum
to provide video programming and high-speed Internet access using terrestrial
transmitters.

'In some areas where there is innovative technology, they have refused to
act,' Lott told reporters. 'Yeah, I am talking about Northpoint.'

Although he recognized that the FCC is an independent agency, Lott said that
wouldn't stop him from questioning its policies.

'You've got to be careful how you pressure these agencies. We do have a right
to ask the FCC: What in the world are you doing?' he added.

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