Cable-Friendly Rubio Starts Running

WASHINGTON — U.S. Republican Sen. Marco Rubioof Florida wants to be president.

He also doesn’t want the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet under Title II, which definitely distinguishes him from the current resident of the White House.

Rubio is the latest member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees communications policy, to seek, or at least ponder seeking, the highest office in the land.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) beat him to the punch, while Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) comes up in conversations about potential candidates. No Senate Commerce chairman has ever won the presidency, but it was not for lack of trying by three-time chairman and long-time candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).


Rubio, a mediagenic young senator of Cuban-American heritage, could help the Republicans improve their numbers in the Hispanic community. And if he does not prove to be the presidential choice for 2016, 2020 will already be looming before the country starts hailing the new chief.

Rubio was tapped in 2013 to provide the response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech, which is reserved for party fixtures or up and comers, such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2009 and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) in 2011.

OK, Rubio had a run-in with a glass of water that night, and he is only now emerging from the middle of the pack in popularity polls. But just two weeks ago, political handicapping website declared that the official Republican field had gotten its first real contender in Rubio, declaring him an electable conservative, defined partly as not nearly as extreme as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

A President Rubio would almost certainly support a Congressional effort to undo Title II. Following the FCC’s Feb. 26 decision to reclassify Internet service providers under common carrier regulations, Rubio was on the same page as cable operators when it came to the perceived impact of the decision.

“The Internet is not a place where we need to start posting new speed limits and setting up new speed traps, but that’s essentially what this federal action threatens to do to the Internet,” he said.

“A federal government board in Washington today took action that threatens to overregulate the Internet to the point of making it more expensive for consumers, less innovative and less competitive.”

Rubio has also pushed for opening up more of the WiFi spectrum that cable operators need to provide wireless broadband mobility to their wired customers.

Rubio teamed with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) earlier this year to light a fire under an FCC effort to free up spectrum in the upper 5 GHz band for unlicensed WiFi use. That legislation drew plaudits from the cable industry. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association called it “a clear path forward for properly allocating a finite and increasingly necessary public resource.”


Rubio is also on the same page as cable operators when it comes to opposing the FCC’s pre-emption of state laws limiting municipal broadband. After Wheeler signaled he thought it was within the FCC’s power and an appropriate response to laws he said were pushed by incumbents trying to fend off competition, Rubio was among a group of Republican lawmakers to fire off a letter to the chairman warning him against usurping state laws (candidate Cruz was also on that letter).

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.