Public-Interest Groups Have Lots Of Questions For FCC Nominees


A consortium of public-interest groups has a number of questions it wants Congress to ask when it vets Federal Communications Commission chairman nominee Julius Genachowksi and FCC commissioner Robert McDowell when it holds their nomination hearing.

That Senate Commerce Committee hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon, June 16, with each getting their separate interrogation -- Genachowski is up first.

In a letter to Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the groups, which include the United Church of Christ, Public Knowledge and the Media Access Project, divided their queries into five categories: broadband, localism, diversity, open networks, and wireless, essentially telegraphing the answers they hope to hear, which includes open access to networks and devices, that broadband access is key to civic participation, and that localism is key to serving communities.

Following are the series of questions the groups hope will "assist in the evaulation," according to a copy of the letter supplied to Multichannel News.

• Do you think access to broadband has become a fundamental prerequisite for economic and civic participation in the United States? Are you satisfied with the United States' broadband penetration rate? What steps should the FCC take to ensure that all Americans have access to this technology, including groups with lower rates of access, such as Native Americans or people with disabilities?

• Most consumers have a choice of only one or two broadband carriers in their local area. Is this sufficient competition and deployment? If yes, please explain why. If no, what should the FCC do to increase competition in broadband markets and to increase deployment?

• The FCC is statutorily mandated to enhance and promote localism. In an effort to achieve this goal, how would you evaluate past FCC efforts in areas such as low-power radio or enhanced disclosure obligations for broadcasters, and what could the agency do better to ensure that communities are being served?

• Does the FCC have a role in improving competition and the marketplace of ideas by maintaining structural limits on ownership structures of media companies?

Studies on broadcast ownership show that only 3% of TV and 8% of radio stations have minority owners. How do you see the role of the FCC in correcting the disparity in media ownership by women and minorities?

• The Administration has said it supports the basic principle that "network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others." Do you
agree? If so, how should this be enforced?

• Right now wireless providers restrict consumers' ability to use the device of their choice with wireless service. Shouldn't wireless customers have the same rights as users of wired services have had since 1968? Do you believe that wireless providers are right in doing this?