Posts by Martyn Griffen

Recap of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on STELA Reauthorization

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On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). This Act is the most recent version in a series of authorizations dating back to the 1980s that governs the carriage of broadcast signals by satellite television providers. The current Act contains several provisions that are set to expire at the end of 2014, and this hearing addressed whether or not provisions in this Act should be extended and for how long.

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The Latta-Green Bill Is Bad News For Cable Customers

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The "Consumer Choice in Video Devices Act" Would Move Set-Top Competition Backward


November has been a promising month for the prospect of reform in the video marketplace, with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller's (D-WV) ambitious Consumer Choice in Online Video Act.  While we're eager to see how Congress responds to Chairman Rockefeller's bill, we're also keeping an eye on video-related activity on the other side of the Hill.

Back in September, Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), the Vice-Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology introduced H.R. 3196, the Consumer Choice in Video Devices Act, a bill that would amend the Communications Act to restrict FCC authority for adopting certain rules or policies relating to multichannel video programming distributors (such as cable operators).  In particular, this bill targets Section 629 of the Telecom Act and would end the "integration ban," an FCC requirement that cable operator-supplied set-top boxes use some of the same technology--currently CableCARD--that third-party device makers use.

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Rockefeller Looks to Move the Ball Forward on Video Reform

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Rockefeller’s bill takes an ambitious approach toward the video marketplace of the future.


Tuesday, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (S-WV) introduced the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, which seeks to address the anticompetitive and anti-consumer forces at work in today’s video marketplace. This bill would prevent cable providers from engaging in discriminatory measures against online video operators and would ensure that online video providers can access valuable programming. As we’ve said numerous times before, the current state of the video marketplace is outdated and in need of reform.You’ve got incumbent distributors, broadcasters, cable providers, network affiliates, with relationships locked into place and codified in US law.  This arrangement benefits the incumbents but does nothing for innovation, competition, or consumer choice.Tech companies tease the marketplace with hints of new video devices on the horizon but time and again consumers are left empty-handed and wanting. Technology isn’t what’s holding back the marketplace, the outdated video policies are.

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Rural America to Telecos: We’re Still Here, Guys.  Can We Get Some Reliable Service, Please?

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As communications technology changes, it is important that all Americans have access to reliable communications service. Rural America cannot get left behind.


From Sunday, June 23 to Wednesday, June 26, 2013 participants representing more than 500 local, regional, and national advocacy organizations gathered outside of DC to participate in the National Rural Assembly.  The Assembly works to build a stronger, more vibrant rural America and during the conference attendees discussed rural policies regarding health care, education, community development, and broadband deployment.

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Senate Commerce Committee to FCC, “The Game is Changing.  Are We Keeping Up?”

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On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee held its first FCC oversight hearing of the year.  All 5 Commissioners attended and Senators discussed their laundry list of priorities and pet projects.  While Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) pressed hard on funding for FirstNet, there were several other topics important to the public interest addressed in the hearing.

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Why the Consumer Electronics Show Will Never be Overrated

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Last week (January 7-11), Las Vegas hosted the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, the annual trade show where tech companies present their latest gadgets and gizmos.  Speculation about which company will have the largest, sharpest, thinnest, displays or the latest bells and whistles for their mobile handsets dominates the tech world for weeks leading up to CES, and the show officially begins the conversation for consumer tech for the year.  Walking the convention center floor and playing with the newest in consumer tech is a tech fanboy/fangirl’s dream come true.  Public Knowledge sent a delegation to the show this year and was encouraged by the energy of the attendants not only with regard to tech devices but especially toward tech policy.

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Congress and the FCC Talk Incentive Auctions, Spectrum, and Your Wireless Future

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On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held an oversight hearing on the implementation of spectrum auctions in an effort to meet the growing demand for wireless broadband services and fund a nationwide public safety network.  The five FCC Commissioners testified before the panel on the status of the auctions and their interpretations on how the auctions will free up additional spectrum and promote competition.  These auctions were part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.  For background on the spectrum provisions included in this legislation, read Harold Feld’s recap of the legislation from February of this year.

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DOJ Releases Confidential Information; Verizon/Cable Deal As Bad As We Thought

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As we process the FCC’s approval of the deal between Verizon, Comcast, and other cable companies, it’s worth taking a closer look at the actual agreements, based on the details that the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released in its analysis of the deal.  Although the DOJ expressed concerns about the deals it still decided to approve it.

On August 16, 2012 the Department of Justice announced its approval of the Verizon/SpectrumCo Deal, a disappointing outcome for those of us fighting for greater competition in the broadband marketplace.  Check out Jodie Griffin’s thorough analysis for a full rundown of Public Knowledge’s concerns with the DOJ approval, including the conditions imposed on Verizon and the cable companies. 

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Congress Considers Updating 20-year-old Rules, Witnesses Squabble

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Congressional Committee hearings have the tendency to come across as a bit dry at times [read, a lot of the time].  Members of Congress attempt humor that falls flat, drop references to their local sports team, and respectfully disagree with their colleagues about legislation or Constitutional interpretation.   The witnesses provide testimony from the perspective of their organizations/industries, take subtle jabs at the opposing position, and answer Members’ questions, or listen to Members use the majority of their question time to make drawn out positions statements.

However, yesterday’s Senate Commerce hearing on “The Cable Act at 20” was different.  It became so feisty at one point that I expected popcorn and soft drinks to go along with the entertainment. 

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Senate IPEC Hearing Discusses China and Bad Medicine, Ignores Past Crackdowns on Legitimate Sites

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On May 9, 2012 the Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing of the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) with Victoria Espinel as the sole witness.  This position coordinates the work done by different government agencies to combat intellectual property theft.  The May 9 hearing was the committee’s third oversight hearing on IP enforcement.  The hearing was nothing to write home about, which was unfortunate for a few reasons.  First of all, it was primarily a Democratic Senatorial event.  Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the committee’s Ranking Member was the only Republican senator present, and he left after his opening statement.  The other senators present apart from Grassley and Chairman Leahy (D-VT) were retiring Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).  Second, the two stars of the show were counterfeit pharmaceuticals and China. 

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SOPA Hearing flawed as the bill itself

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The House Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss to the hotly debated H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was flawed on so many levels.  Even watching the hearing online was flawed, which is ironic because you would think it would be easy to obtain a legally accessible, good quality video stream on a hearing about online piracy.  Once you were finally able to view the hearing, you realized the whole thing was a setup.

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