Washington -- House Energy & Commerce Committee
chairman-elect Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has more on his mind than the fight over network
neutrality he talked about in this week's magazine. In an e-mail exchange with Multichannel News Washington bureau
chief John Eggerton, he weighed in with his views on the pending Federal
Communications Commission media-ownership meeting, spectrum reclamation and
other issues. An edited transcript follows.
Multichannel News: Energy
and healthcare are top of mind, but what are your telecom priorities for the
Upton: I will
need to sit down with my subcommittee chairs to discuss our priorities and the
calendar, but after network neutrality my sense is we are likely to examine
issues such as FCC reform, oversight of the broadband provisions of the
stimulus package, universal service reform, spectrum, privacy and cyber-security.
We will also work to foster an environment that encourages innovation and job
creation in the private sector.
MCN: Where are you on
online privacy and the need for legislation?
Upton: The issue
is clearly not going away. The status quo is not acceptable but there is not
yet consensus on the solution. Like most communications issues, this is not a
partisan topic and my hope is that the members of the committee can continue to
work together to move this discussion forward.
MCN: Are you OK with
the Comcast-NBC Uuniversal merger, and why or why not?
Upton: As I said
in my recent letter, Comcast and NBC Universal have made the case that they do
not have market power now and still won't after the transaction. If that is the
case, no conditions are warranted. If it is not the case, I would expect the
Commission to impose only the narrowest of conditions needed to address
whatever merger-specific issues of market power exist. This transaction should
not be used to address anyone's Christmas wish list of industry-wide policy
MCN: Should broadcasters
have to give up some spectrum, and do you support compensating them?
question is not whether broadcasters should give up spectrum. The question is
whether we should provide the FCC with authority to share auction proceeds with
any spectrum licensee who voluntarily returns spectrum. I certainly think that
is an approach worth considering, in light of our need for more spectrum to
address the demand for wireless broadband.
have gone years without certainty on media ownership regulations. What can the
committee do, if anything, to help get them that certainty?
Upton: The media-ownership
rules are horribly out of date. They do not reflect the realities of today's
marketplace. There is far more competition and far more competitors than ever
before, including entirely new Internet-based platforms. I think committee
oversight can help the FCC put its ownership regulations on much firmer
footing, particularly in light of recent court decisions calling the existing
regulations into question.
MCN: How vigorous
will your oversight be of the FCC and how soon after you take over will the
commissioners be asked to come to the Hill?
Upton: I think we
can expect a series of hearings on network neutrality early in the year, as
well as an examination of FCC reform and efforts to increase transparency. I
also hope to have the commissioners appear frequently to discuss their agenda
and any other issues that pop up throughout the Congress.
MCN: Is there a
question we should have asked you, and what would your answer be?
Upton: You should
have asked me if I am optimistic about the things we can do in the communications
subcommittee to help industry provide new and innovative services to the
American people, kick start our economy, and create jobs. The answer is, yes,
and I believe we can do so on a bipartisan basis.