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Congress To Investigate FCC 252

Posted by kdawson
from the so-there dept.
SirLurksAlot writes to let us know that Congress is planning to question the FCC on the way the commission is run. From the article: "The FCC — and Chairman Kevin Martin in particular — are in hot water with Congress... While Martin was at CES, telling all who would listen that the FCC will investigate Comcast's traffic-shaping practices, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a formal investigation of the FCC. The news couldn't be more welcome to the industries that the FCC regulates.'"
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Congress To Investigate FCC

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  • Cash Cow Concerns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:08PM (#21999994) Journal
    Yeah, I heard that Congress was concerned the FCC wasn't corrupt enough.

    Or perhaps this is just a remedial course on how to milk your cash cows [comcast.com].

    Every so often congress has to look like it's investigating something when a source of income is threatened [cnn.com]. Is anything ever done about it? Not really [wikipedia.org].

    But magically, without fail, the citizen is screwed in the end. Congress just wants to make sure some of that money ends up back at the top.
    • by giminy (94188) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:19PM (#22000164) Homepage Journal
      Is anything ever done about it? Not really.

      The difference here is that the Congress controls the FCC's budget, whereas it has essentially no control over Microsoft or the oil industry. Only the FTC can really do anything to Microsoft/Big Oil directly, so there is a dilution of congressional oversight. Yes, congress having a hearing with oil execs or with microsoft is more for show. If they wanted to achieve anything in those two arenas, they would haul FTC folks in and say, "Why are you letting oil/microsoft fleece the public?"

      With government agencies, though, Congress really does wield power. That power is called the budget. The Congress can, and hopefully will, fund portions of the FCC that are more to its liking, and not approve portions of the FCC's budget that it does not agree with (for example, budget line item 1643: Chairman's Salary? Yeah, we don't like how high that's gotten, we'll only approve this much).

      Some day, I hope that democracy starts working again...let's see if this is a start?

      Reid.out
      • by plague3106 (71849) on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:10PM (#22000918)
        If anything, this is a start to a goverment for the corporations. Did you notice that everyone in the article listed as unhappy are megacorps upset they can't screw consumers anymore? "Traffic shaping" means colluding to make internet access more profitiable for them, and costly to us. Exclusive contracts are a means of keeping a monopoly on cable, when what's really benefical is more than one unit being able to provide cable services (which include TV, internet and phone).

        Let's hope nothing comes of this, because if there are major changes, it won't benefit us.
        • Re:Cash Cow Concerns (Score:4, Informative)

          by giminy (94188) on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:34PM (#22001246) Homepage Journal
          If anything, this is a start to a goverment for the corporations. Did you notice that everyone in the article listed as unhappy are megacorps upset they can't screw consumers anymore? "Traffic shaping" means colluding to make internet access more profitiable for them, and costly to us. Exclusive contracts are a means of keeping a monopoly on cable, when what's really benefical is more than one unit being able to provide cable services (which include TV, internet and phone).

          In the article, the megacorps quotation is written quite separately from the pending Congressional action. There is no indication in the news story exactly why the congresscritters are upset with the FCC.

          The Reuter's and AP wire stories (Reuter's story here: link [reuters.com])detailing the letter hint that Congress is displeased with the FCC because the FCC is not allowing the public enough to comment on decisions, and that they are concerned with FCC DEREGULATION over big media. Still, this reasoning is speculative on Reuter's part and we can't really know why the letter is sent and why the Congress wants to meet with the FCC. My point is this: the letter says nothing about letting Comcast off the hook, nothing about deregulating cable, or any other such conspiracy theory that everyone is dreaming up. That big media, even, is complaining about the FCC is purely speculative vis-a-vis the reasoning behind the letter being sent out. Big media may very well be complaining more when this is all over.

          That said, there is a strong current that this Congress is upset about things like short public notice and loosening grip on big media (from the Reuter's article above). I'll hope for the best for now, and will try not to add to political distrust when it is unfounded...I think we've had enough of that over the years...

          Reid.out
      • you are uneducated! (Score:2, Informative)

        by p51d007 (656414)
        Obviously you are a government educated moron. This county (USA) has NEVER been a democracy. If you think it is, that is the problem with idiots like you. Look up the word representative republic. [Quote] Some day, I hope that democracy starts working again...let's see if this is a start?
      • Congress' primary power over the whitehouse is the budget, as well. Look at how that is working out.
      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        The difference here is that the Congress controls the FCC's budget, whereas it has essentially no control over Microsoft or the oil industry. Only the FTC can really do anything to Microsoft/Big Oil directly, so there is a dilution of congressional oversight. Yes, congress having a hearing with oil execs or with microsoft is more for show. If they wanted to achieve anything in those two arenas, they would haul FTC folks in and say, "Why are you letting oil/microsoft fleece the public?"

        So, Congress cuts th

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SailorSpork (1080153)
      Comcast to FCC: "What do you mean we can't pay you off to look the other way?"

      Congress to FCC: "Hello there FCC, we need to talk. Oh, ignore the bulges in my pockets, that's just bribe cash from Comcast."
      • by DeadChobi (740395)
        These issues could be partially taken care of by requiring politicians to donate left-over campaign funds to appropriate charities and thus not allowing them to keep the HUGE WADS OF CASH that they recieve from corporations.
  • ah-oh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "The FCC is structured about broadcast, cable and telephone," he said. "That isn't the world we are live in, and it isn't the world we are going to. The FCC has to be overhauled for the Internet world."

    This make me feel nervous, because if they start monitoring the internet all the stuff we like on it will be gone.
    • by Shakrai (717556) *

      This make me feel nervous, because if they start monitoring the internet all the stuff we like on it will be gone.

      It will also be gone if we let the telcos and cable cos have free rein to do whatever the hell they want. When content providers get charged twice (once for their net connection, once for communicating with me) for delivering that content and the service providers are allowed to do whatever they want with my traffic (including man-in-the-middle attacks when they don't like what I'm doing) then the internet as we know it is truly dead.

      At least we theoretically have control over the FCC through our elect

      • by markhb (11721)
        Radio and television utilize the broadcast airwaves that are considered to be owned by the public. POTS has long been considered to be something akin to a necessity of life, and has been regulated that way. However, the overall political climate in this country is farther to the right than it was in the 1930's, and it's doubtful that internet access will be given the same "essential" status as POTS.

        Given that, then the concept of "the internet" resolves to the physical layer: the backbones and T3's and sw
        • by Shakrai (717556) *

          POTS has long been considered to be something akin to a necessity of life ... and it's doubtful that internet access will be given the same "essential" status as POTS

          It's only doubtful if we don't fight for it to be given that status. I would make the argument that cellular phones should be treated the same as POTS. Ditto for the internet. Both are virtual necessities for large segments of the population, yet neither have the same protections in place as other essential services (like POTS, electric/gas or water).

          the backbones and T3's and switchers and NICs that IP needs in order to a place to exist and travel across. And each of those blinky lights is owned by someone who has all the rights that that ownership implies, which include the right to try to extract as large a profit as you legally can from your property.

          And the public has a right to demand (through our elected representatives) regulation of that property when said owners try to leverage it to maximiz

    • Dont you trust our American Government? They know whats best for us.

      The wealthy rule the poor. Get used to it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pilgrim23 (716938)
      In many ways, the 1990s on the Internet resembled the radio spectrum of the 1930s: Some commercial use, some military use and a whole lot of accademic and hobbyist use.
      Ham Radio Operators have watched the FCC for decades. And well they should; Whenever that board sits in their awsome pontification, Hams loose just a little more spectrum. Radio has been distributed in direct relation to the money distributed. Internet will follow this well worn government path. If you want a good lesson on how
      • by geekoid (135745)
        Except you can not control the net in the same way. You are comparing Apples to hammers.
      • Loose is an adjective, the opposite of tight or contained.

        My shoes are loose. I have a loose tooth. There's a dog running loose in the street

        Lose: Lose is a verb that means to suffer the loss of, to miss.

        I win, you lose. Don't lose your keys. I never lose bets.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:09PM (#22000016)
    The news couldn't be more welcome to the industries that the FCC regulates.

    Probably true.

    They probably don't like the way the FCC is regulating them, so a few "campaign contributions" later, their bought-and-paid-for, em, concerned Representatives and Senators just "happen" to investigate the FCC.

    When are Pelosi and Reid getting around to earmark reform, anyway? Or will they be too damn busy investigating steroid use in baseball?

    Meh, no wonder their approval rating is half of W's.
  • Unspecific (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MadUndergrad (950779) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:10PM (#22000034)
    The article has lots of speculation about who wants what, but it doesn't mention whether Congress is trying to intervene on behalf of the telcos and such, or against them. Kind of makes a big difference.
    • Re:Unspecific (Score:4, Interesting)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:16PM (#22000120)
      Do you honestly think that they're investigating the FCC as a way to say "Thanks FCC, great job standing up to those telcos!" Give me a break. The telcos have called in their bribes amd slapped their bitches into line (i.e. "Congress") to get them to bring the hammer down on the FCC for daring to actually stand up for the consumer on some issues.
      • TFA says (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pesho (843750) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:33PM (#22000366)
        Well that's exactly what the article implies if you read it to the end. They are investigating FCC for not being corrupt enough: The cable operators are upset about the FCC's attempt to regulate their industry, along with the Commission's decision last year to nullify many of their exclusive contracts with apartment buildings. The telephone companies aren't thrilled about the FCC's 700MHz auction conditions (Verizon even sued), and everyone wants the FCC to keep away from their traffic monitoring and shaping practices. That would please the industries regulated by the FCC. Multichannel News reports that AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast all bashed the agency in a CES panel yesterday, with each group wanting to see major changes in the way that the FCC operates Perhaps the strongest criticism came from Verizon's Tom Tauke, who argued that the FCC just isn't set up to deal with the modern world. "The FCC is structured about broadcast, cable and telephone," he said. "That isn't the world we are live in, and it isn't the world we are going to. The FCC has to be overhauled for the Internet world."
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by elrous0 (869638) *
          I love the way they try to portray the FCC's attempts to keep them from traffic shaping and strong-arming apartment dwellers as luddite thinking (as if exclusive apartment franchise agreements are somehow essential in the modern world, lol). Spin is a truly amazing thing to behold sometimes.
      • by kabocox (199019)
        Do you honestly think that they're investigating the FCC as a way to say "Thanks FCC, great job standing up to those telcos!" Give me a break. The telcos have called in their bribes amd slapped their bitches into line (i.e. "Congress") to get them to bring the hammer down on the FCC for daring to actually stand up for the consumer on some issues.

        Um, what issue has the FCC stood up for consumers for? I can't name any that come to mind.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:12PM (#22000062)
    For all of those who doubt that the Democratic and Republican party aren't just the same wolves in different sheepskins...I present to you exhibit A.
    • by gambolt (1146363) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:21PM (#22000206)
      I'll take the corrupt oligarchy without all the Jesus in it.

      • by ScentCone (795499)
        I'll take the corrupt oligarchy without all the Jesus in it.

        Yeah, the new one with all the Marx in it is much better. But Ron Paul will fix that, too, right? After all, he's the one that can determine the budgets, the regulatory atmosphere, and whatnot. Oh, right, that's congress. But at least he's the right man for telling foreign allies that they're not "adult" enough. Way to win back that international respect he's pining away for! Yeesh.
        • by gambolt (1146363)
          click on the RP link. It's not what you think.
        • by compro01 (777531)
          go read the link sometime. it's anti-ron paul.
      • by faloi (738831)
        Because the outcome isn't important, it's how you get there?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I personally do not want the Theocracy the Republicans are trying to create.

      Contrary to the Theocrat's propaganda; this is not a christian nation. Seperation of church and state are written into law.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:13PM (#22000090)
    The news couldn't be more welcome to the industries that the FCC regulates.'"

    I don't know about that. In a recent action [tmcnet.com], the FCC gave away the store to "the industries that the FCC regulates". In spite of overwhelming outcry from consumers, the FCC handed industry what they wanted.

  • by zulater (635326) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:15PM (#22000104)
    One corrupt organization investigating another. What could possibly go wrong?
    • One corrupt organization investigating another. What could possibly go wrong?
      Well... at least it means the RIAA has to bribe more people. Take that, suckers!
  • Ads (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:20PM (#22000182) Homepage

    That's good, but I'd like to see them work on fixing advertising. I'm of the opinion that we should go back to the old stance (80s or so?) that drugs shouldn't be able to be advertised on TV. I think that would help quite a bit with healthcare costs. But I'd also like them to investigate the ads we have now. I remember reading something in the last week or so that someone was pushing them to do that over the Lipitor ads with Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart, testifying about how good Lipitor is.

    The problem is that he has never had a license to practice medicine in the US. He dropped out of a US medical school because of his grades and got his degree from a school outside this country. It's really questionable that he is qualified to talk about the drug.

    I wish they'd work on advertising. So much of it is so blatantly wrong. Just deal with a few of the worst offenders, and the rest will self-correct before they get investigated.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mea37 (1201159)
      I don't think Jarvik is any worse than any of the other direct-to-consumer drug spokesmen, some wearing lab coats and others not. I doubt Random Announcer Guy who narrates commercials for other cholesterol drugs is medically licensed.

      And what if Jarvik were licensed in the U.S.? He still wouldn't be speaking to an individual's case, and he'd still be shilling for the drug's maker. Those are the basic problems with all direct-to-consumer drug ads (which may say "your doctor will decide", but bury that whe
    • by teslatug (543527)
      I wish that they would force advertisers to put the words "advertisement" or something similar on the screen at all times. Sure some may be confusing (e.g. those "talk" show "infomertials") and it would help remove that confusion, but mainly I want it so there is a way to filter them out.
  • A lot of members of congress get heft campaign donations from the entertainment industry. Particularly members from California. Comcast's traffic shaping is supposed to help their campaign contributors. Is it any wonder they'd be against the FCC on this one?
  • Am I the only one suspecting that when Martin declared an investigation of Comcast's practices that someone at Comcast immediately called their pocket senator?


    That would explain Comcast's rate hikes - congressmen salaries and demands go up every six months, too.

  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cruzerld (1217458) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:43PM (#22000508)
    Some of the things that the Congressmen are investigating in the article seem to be the only good things the FCC has done...

    1) Regulating the Cable industry (ok, that's a bad one if it falls under censorship. But they do have the power to force a la carte services, which would be a good thing for most people).
    2) Putting conditions on the 700Mhz auction (which is a good thing overall)
    3) Net neutrality (The FCC is actually for net neutrality, to the detriment of internet providers).

    So 2/3 are clearly meant to help consumers, and the other one could help consumers (although it is just as likely to harm us).

    So once again it looks like the industry paid off the right Congressmen to shake down a government commission just before it actually did something right.
    • Congressional investigations are about agenda setting, political capital (getting more people on board), and/or chicken.

      1) Congress can elevate issues of policy/culture into the media when conducting an "investigation." Whether about steroids or blowjobs or whether the family network can have an a la carte anti-abortion show.

      2) Senators and Reps can get an ass-ton of sound bites out to interested parties--citizens, corporations, and their monied representatives (lobbyists, family groups, net neutrality fol
  • by slcdb (317433) on Friday January 11, 2008 @12:55PM (#22000722) Homepage
    Remember kids, these congress critters are the people that you and I, our familes, friends, and neighbors all elected.

    Unless you don't vote. In that case, feel free to bitch-slap the rest of us.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Remember kids, these congress critters are the people that you and I, our familes, friends, and neighbors all elected.

      Unless you don't vote. In that case, feel free to bitch-slap yourself for not voting .
      Fixed that for you.
  • by mishelley (1202207) on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:09PM (#22000898) Homepage
    Committee on Energy and Commerce has a subcomittee for this:
    Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet
    14 reublicans
    18 democrats
    1 vacancy
    and the chairman is a democrat
    You can see all their names and voting records http://energycommerce.house.gov/Subcommittees/telint.shtml [house.gov] Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet
  • But first... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thaelon (250687) on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:18PM (#22001046)
    What we first need to do is change the FCC so that it's not headed by appointed officials, but rather by elected representatives.

    The FCC's power has grown far beyond it's original intention (regulating airwaves frequencies in the U.S.). Apparently they only do things in response to complaints. Or at least that's how it once was. But the really fucked up thing is 99% of complaints come from one organization [arstechnica.com].

    So essentially this one single organization is responsible for most of the - detrimental in my opinion - changes to what is allowed to be broadcast or not.

    It's not the popular decision. People just think it is because this one fucked up organization has such broad powers and people just assume that it's the popular opinion. It is not.

    The organization responsible for all this? The Parent's Television Council [parentstv.org]. The sick thing is they're proud to be the nation's most influential advocacy organization [parentstv.org] yet have barely a million members [parentstv.org]. That's right one million up tight fucks are responsible for 99.8-99.9% of all FCC regulation that affects 303 million people [census.gov].

    And the FCC allows it.
    • by kypper (446750)
      So we start a Consumer's Television Council and complain about the FCC decisions made as a result of the Parent's Television Council. Slashdot alone would give it a nice healthy membership.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      The FCC's power has grown far beyond it's original intention (regulating airwaves frequencies in the U.S.). Apparently they only do things in response to complaints. Or at least that's how it once was. But the really fucked up thing is 99% of complaints come from one organization.

      So let's start a drive to file complaints with the FCC that we don't hear enough profanity during dinnertime, and that we don't see enough T&A over the breakfast table during the morning news.

      Maybe if we get enough complaints

  • by Dan667 (564390)
    Anyone care to let the rest of us know if this is good or bad for us pee-ons? I like to cheer with the crowd.
  • The FCC sits on a honeypot of hundreds of billions of dollars overseen by 5 politically-appointed commissioners with no review of what they decide. Even a saint would be tempted by all of that money, and those commissioners don't look very saintly. A cynic might say that congress just wants to be sure that it's getting their cut of the action but perhaps that's wrong. Maybe consumers will see some improvements with more oversight of the FCC like wi-fi standards that are shaped by consumers rather than a
  • by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Friday January 11, 2008 @02:28PM (#22002040)
    I think not.

    The article says Congress is investigating the FCC for being too close to the industries they are regulating, giving them an inside track to getting favorable decisions.

    It goes on to say that the companies are pissed off because of the decisions they do make. What that demonstrates is that the companies would like even more influence over the decisions the FCC takes. It does not mean that Congress is investigating the FCC to make it so.

    If the article is to be believed, Congress wants to make it harder for the companies to manipulate the FCC, not easier. If so, the companies will not be rejoicing over Congress's actions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You seem to be the only one who read the same article I did. The problem to be addressed is one of transparancy and fairness.
  • The One Sure Way (Score:4, Informative)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Friday January 11, 2008 @04:32PM (#22004440) Homepage
    The one certain way of telling that the FCC is doing its job protecting consumer interests is when Congress gets involved. I do want to see more about the abuse of FUSF funds though because with all the money we've paid into that system we should have 21st century phone and net access EVERYWHERE!

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