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Lame duck government

It’s over. There will be presidential statements and appearances, congressional hearings where FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will continue to be roughed up, and all the other familiar trappings of government at work. With the 2008 White House sweepstakes already in high gear, government-as-usual has been reduced to government-as-usurped (by presidential campaigns). Forget what the calendar says. 2008 is here.
Telecom legislation in Congress was supposed to have been at least possible this year, with virtually no hope in 2008. There’s almost no talk about telecom reform. There are a few “white space” bills, but they likely will be mooted when the Federal Communications Commission decides to make unassigned TV spectrum available for unlicensed Wi-Fi and possibly licensed applications as well.
Expanding federal pre-emption of state wireless regulation is a non-starter. What’s left then but more insufferable debate over net neutrality, universal reform and perhaps some E911 funding and public-safety interoperability grant tweaks? And FCC oversight. The commission holds a meeting a month, so why not an FCC oversight hearing every 30 days or so?
That very thought has occurred to House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.)-perhaps in jest, perhaps not. Dingell doesn’t like a lot of what he sees at the FCC these days. He’s a stickler on process and, well, he’s a powerful Democrat who’s returned to the throne after a dozen years playing second fiddle to Rep. Joe Barton.
“For some time, the commission has not been subject to an appropriate level of congressional oversight. This oversight slumber seems to have led to unwelcome consequences,” said Dingell. Noting the FCC’s latest stab at addressing consumer complaints dating back to 2003, Dingell remarked, “Though it is encouraging to see the commission working hard, it makes me wonder whether we need to schedule an oversight hearing every month in order to keep the business of the commission on track.”
It probably won’t give rise to telecom legislation, but the Dingell-Martin Show should at least make the next two years entertaining. It might even qualify for mobile content.


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