DeGette on C-SPAN's Communicators

"We're going to be more regulatory-minded than the Republicans leadership in Congress."  That's according to Rep. Diana DeGette, the six-term Colorado Democrat--and Colorado is Cable country--now in the majority on the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

"I think you'll see a real renewed effort to have oversight on the telcom industry and look and see if we really need meaningful revision of the telcom laws," she tells C-SPAN's Susan Swain for an upcoming episode of its Communicators series.

DeGette did not take the opportunity to hammer out the merging cable and telco companies, however. When asked how concerned she was about consolidation, she said she saw the industry repositioning through the merger moves. She also said that given the changing market,  mergers and consolidations can be "very useful for consumers."

Having supported failed network neutrality legislation in the last Congress, DeGette said she was concerned with the issue. "I think it's something Congress needs to look at very closely" as it considers revising the 1996 Telecom Act," she said.

DeGette said the time is ripe for an omnibus bill that adjusts the act. But she said the early priority for the committee will be to hold hearings on the effect of the act on consumers, rather than produce a fully formed bill and then try to pass it.

She said there should be a "robust" hearing on franchise reform--the FCC has voted to revise the franchise process.

She describe expected new house Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey as a deregulatory crusader. "You'll see that same commitment," she said. But that deregulation comes with conditions. "His passion is net neutrality," she said. "I think you will see a real effort to pass stand-alone legislation or net neutrality as part of a larger bill."

She said she shared Markey's philosophy.

DeGette says abuse of the Internet to harm children is an important issues that should get some early attention. She says a bill she has been teeing up in the last Congress could well pass early in the session. It would require Internet providers to maintain "identifying records," of who is using the site so that if a child "like raping a child on the Internet is being committed," so that law enforcement can subpoena the records.

The bill would require companies to keep the information for a year. She says the Justice Department supports the bill, as do many of committee members, including former Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.).

DeGette referred, though not overtly, to Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" series, saying that "sexual predators have been, and we've seen this on some of the network TV shows, luring children and sexually assaulting them. The incidence is growing at an alarming rate," she added, though a recent Columbia Journalism Review article suggested that threat may be overblown.

She says having two teenage daughters have helped her stay abreast of the telecom revoluation, but that many of her colleagues, "don't have a clue what's going on."

John Eggerton

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.