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Tauzin talks telecom

Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee, plans to hold his third and last roundtable discussion on digital
television with industry representatives at the end of this month, he said
Wednesday after a Washington, D.C., conference held by The Precursor Group.

Tauzin needs to see agreements that will produce progress from the TV, cable,
content-provider and consumer-electronics industries within six to nine months
or he'll consider introducing legislation as early as this spring.

No such agreements are imminently forthcoming, industry sources said.

Tauzin is working closely with Republican and Democratic leaders of the
committee, including full committee ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.), House
Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.),
subcommittee ranking member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rick Boucher

During a morning speech, Tauzin outlined this year's priorities for his
committee, including the digital-TV transition, copyright protection, cyber
security, privacy, spectrum allocation and broadband deployment.

Broadband has been a pet project of Tauzin's, as he has been pushing hard for
House passage of his deregulatory Bell bill, called Tauzin-Dingell, after its

'We'll win passage for it in the House, deliver it to the Senate and then
we'll go deal with Mr. Hollings,' Tauzin said, referring to the chairman of the
Senate Commerce Committee, South Carolina Democrat Fritz Hollings, who strongly
opposes the bill.

Tauzin also said he was divided in his view of EchoStar Communications
Corp.'s proposed $26.8 billion acquisition of Hughes Electronics Corp.

'[EchoStar CEO Charlie] Ergen's proposal probably enhances satellite's
ability to compete in the broadband marketplace,' Tauzin said. 'And if Charlie
is willing to commit to it, the merger probably has the capacity to make more
local TV stations available in local markets. But Ergen would have to agree to a
system by which he would guarantee that customers in markets with only one
choice [of multichannel programming] would still reap the benefits of

Still, Tauzin said, he wasn't that much more enthusiastic about a potential
Hughes-News Corp. merger: 'Then we would have a vertical-integration problem
with cable owning satellite.'