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Republican Sens.: FCC May Be Overstepping Authority

Four Republican senators wrote Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin on the eve of a packed commission meeting to say that they don't like what looks to them like potentially "sweeping new regulations on the cable industry."

"Instead of adopting policies that encourage additional broadband deployment and promote investment and innovation, the commission may be ready to pursue regulatory principles that could undermine the ability of the telecommunications industry to provide real, long-term consumer benefits," wrote Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and John Sununu (N.H.) in a letter dated Monday.

They warned the FCC not to substitute its "regulatory preferences over the determinations of the marketplace," saying that if there is going to be any fundamental shift in regulatory policymaking, it needs to be at the direction of Congress.

The FCC has several cable-related items on the agenda, including capping leased-access rates and a video-competition report Martin has already said will include the finding that cable has passed the 70% subscriber figure that could trigger regulation of the industry. National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow has complained that the Martin-led FCC has continued to tee up issues that would hurt the cable industry, primarily in service to an overarching agenda to impose a la carte on cable.

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.