I. Legislative Branch Activity
A. FCC Commissioners Go Before Senate Commerce Committee.
On February 1, all five FCC Commissioners met with the newly Democratically controlled Senate Commerce Committee. Committee Chairman Senator Inouye (D-HI) expressed concern over a special access provision in the AT&T/BellSouth merger and questioned Chairman Martin about his stated qualms over its legality. Many lawmakers were eager to discuss the country’s low standing worldwide in broadband deployment. Martin responded that making wireless broadband an information service might be possible and would ease regulations that inhibit expedited growth. Other matters brought up by Senators included the privacy of phone records, E-911, the Universal Service Fund, and public input on any new broadcast ownership rules.
B. Future Committee Hearings.
On March 1, the Senate Commerce Committee will meet at 10:00 am to discuss Universal Service. Commissioners Copps and Tate will be present, along with industry leaders and regional public service commissioners.
Also on March 1, at 10:30 am, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet will meet. Their topic will be the "Digital Future of the United States: Part I — The Future of the World Wide Web." The House Judiciary Committee is holding a meeting on February 28 concerning the proposed XM-Sirius merger.
C. Legislative Calendar.
The House and Senate are in session for all of March.
II. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Activity
A. FCC Meeting.
The Commission held an open meeting in Harrisburg, PA on February 23, 2007 to discuss the 2006 broadcast ownership proceeding. This was the third in a series of six meetings concerning broadcast ownership.
B. Other FCC Activity.
1. FCC Budget for 2008 Announced.
In February, President Bush released his budget for the fiscal year 2008. The proposed budget includes $313 million allocated for the FCC. Currently, the FCC receives $289.8 million annually. The amount covers all operations as well as $1.5 million for education on the DTV transition.
2. Staff Changes at the FCC.
· Derek Poarch was named Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief.
C. Next Commission Meeting.
The date and agenda for the March public meeting is not yet available.
III. Antitrust Agency Activity/Deal Announcements
XM-Sirius Announce Proposed Merger.
On February 19, XM Satellite Radio Holdings and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. signed a merger agreement, which calls for the two companies to combine their programming. The merger will have to be approved by both the Department of Justice and the FCC. The sticking point will be what constitutes the market for satellite radio, whether it is narrowly defined or should be expanded to allow competition with FM and AM stations, people with access to the Internet, or owners of other digital music media such as iPods.
NTIA Cedes Control of Public Safety Program to DHS.
The NTIA, in a Memorandum of Understanding, agreed to pay the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to run the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grant Program, which is supposed to enable first responders to communicate better. These responders are more familiar with the DHS system, a central reason behind the switch according the DHS. House Telecom Subcommittee Oversight Chairman Stupak (D-MI) was angered with the announcement. He said that the NTIA was the intended administrator under the DTV law and that both parties are clearly ignoring Congressional intent.