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Kerry Outlines Senate Communications, Technology & Internet Subcommittee Priorities

John Kerry (D-MA) outlined the Senate Communications, Technology & Internet subcommittee priorities Tuesday, as well as the divvying up of responsibilities between that and the full committee headed by Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA).

After foregoing a "laundry list" speech to implore attendees at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's Washington convention to team with the government on technology investments, Kerry provided that list when pressed by reporters.

Kerry said that Chairman Rockefeller would focus on broadband education issues, including e-rate and Universal service issues, in the full committee.

Almost everything else, including broadband oversight, online privacy and the reauthorization of the satellite distant signal compulsory license would be handled at the subcommittee level. Also on the subcommittee's docket, he said, would be a look at possible FCC reforms and network neutrality.

Kerry said he would have a broadband oversight hearing sometime in May, and that there would be a DTV oversight hearing in that same time frame.

Kerry said the key things that the subcommittee had to work on quickly was broadband and DTV oversight.

The Commerce Committee has not scheduled a nomination hearing on FCC chairman nominee Julius Genachowski because it is still waiting on the paperwork, he said. "The biggest problem we have with the administration right now is getting papers on people. It is true in every committee because the vetting process is so complicated.

Kerry said Genachowski would not necessarily be paired with a Republican nominee. "We will take these as fast as we can because we have to get people in place.... We are all chaffing at the bit a little bit waiting for nomination papers. We are waiting for papers at 55 positions at the State Department," he said.

Kerry said he had had conversations Tuesday about FCC reform. "That is part of what we intend to do, working with [Acting Chairman] Michael [Copps] and Julius [Genachowski]. He said he did not know whether there would be legislation. "We don't know yet. That is one where we have to sit down as a committee and talk it through a little bit and see what we think the best way to proceed is, wether it is to work with the administration directly and the FCC, or whether we need to do a bill."

Privacy is "looming as a larger and larger issue," he said. Asked whether he was working on an online privacy bill similar to Rep. Rick Boucher in the House, Kerry said that he would hold at least one hearing, maybe a couple, first. "This issue has grown under the radar screen... I think we need to understand it first." He said he had had briefings on it recently. "A lot of data is being collected in ways that people are completely unaware of," he said, adding that there were "serious questions" about whether even an opt-in model is sufficient protection.

"I am not prepared to tell you what shape it will take because I think we really have some learning to do to understand better exactly what is in play."

Kerry said he has not decided yet whether he would support network neutrality legislation, but pointed out that he has voted for the bill and supported it in the past. "We're not committed to where we are going yet on that. I just know that we have to deal with the issue. It is unresolved."

John Eggerton
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.