Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House
Communications Subcommittee, does not appear to be too concerned about FCC chair
nominee Tom Wheeler's extensive communications industry lobbying background,
historically a red flag for some Democrats including the Democratic president
who nominated Wheeler.
Asked in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series
about Wheeler's experience as a lobbyist atop the cable and cellphone trade
associations and whether that was a concern in terms of his fairness, Eshoo
said she didn't think there were very many people who would be free of that
kind of background "unless we brought in a 22 year-old that simply has not
had the time or experience in Washington."
She said that was a commentary on the system and a "rub
to many people."
But she said that was only one of the bookends. The other,
and one she suggested was even more important, was experience. "You want
someone who has a deep and broad understanding of the industries and the
issues," she said. "The chairman is not there to favor a given
industry, but to understand what those issues are."
She said Wheeler had a great deal of that important
experience under his belt.
If the FCC's Open Internet order is overturned by the courts
-- Verizon has challenged them -- Eshoo would introduce legislation to keep the
Internet "open, accessible and free." Such legislation has virtually
no chance in a Republican-controlled House, however.
Eshoo said she would prefer a "clean"
reauthorization of STELA, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act
that provides a blanket license for satellite operators to deliver distant
network TV station signals. "You don't want the effort to become a
Christmas tree with many things dangling off of it," she said. But she
also said if there are any issues that are legitimate to be "married"
with the bill, there should be hearings on them.
Eshoo said she could not be sure the incentive auctions
would be held in 2014, but said she thought the FCC was on track for that
Acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn should not put off any big
decisions until Wheeler is installed, she said. "I don't believe in
driving with the emergency brake on," she said. "We should continue
to conduct as much business as possible and I think she has the capability to
Eshoo said her concern with Sen. John McCain's a la carte
bill is the niche services that could be lost. "There is a reason for that
packaging." But she also recognized the frustration of her constituents
how don't see competition and do see their cable bills go up.
Eshoo, who represents Silicon Valley, said she
was excited by Aereo, the TV station signal Internet delivery service
broadcasters are suing. "I think it has the possibility of really
revolutionizing TV as we know it," she said.
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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.