FCC investigates Comcast…and Congress investigates the FCC

By Martin Bosworth

It’s one of those moments of fearful symmetry only a tiger could love. Barely a day after FCC chair Kevin Martin announced that his agency would be investigating Comcast for blocking access to BitTorrent, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced that they are launching an investigation into the FCC for some of the shady business that’s been transpiring under Martin’s aegis. (Formal letter here.)

Of special note is the fact that committee chairman John Dingell has asked that e-mails and documents relating to the investigation should be retained, and that whistleblowers should be protected against retaliation from Martin. It says something about how deeply broken and off-track the FCC has become that something like this needs to be right upfront in the letter, or that the letter needs to be written at all.

Martin, as I’ve documented extensively over the last few months, is one of the best friends to business money can buy on the Hill, going out of his way to subvert the public interest in order to ensure the desires of big telecoms and bigger media corporations are met. Viewed in this light, it’s impossible to see his desire to investigate Comcast as anything more than another excuse to screw the cable industry for the benefit of AT&T and Verizon.

This is not to say that Comcast shouldn’t be investigated. Remember their amazing invisible bandwith barrier? Or their non-denial denials when caught red-handed interfering with Internet traffic? Although I wouldn’t put Comcast on the same level as the telecoms when it comes to sheer rapaciousness, there’s no question these guys are bad actors and proof of why we need net neutrality protections codified into law.

But the idea of Martin, a normally laissez-faire business-friendly free market advocate, suddenly turning into a pro-regulation zealot where cable TV is concerned, is ludicrous on its face–unless you understand that every one of Martin’s salvos against cable is done less out of a genuine interest for consumer welfare and more out of an assurance that his paymasters will see their needs met. For that alone, Congress should overturn the heavy rock of the FCC, and dig through every bit of dirt they find–no matter how many nasty things crawl out.

4 replies »

  1. Never happen….I could fill a book with the number of issues this Congress has steadfastly ignored as far as taking any real action…not the least of them sternly warning Martin not to pass the recent regulatory changes allowing more media consolidation. Martin did it anyway because he knew Congress has a total track record of doing nothing. Look, they have watched the administration take away Senate privilege as regards home-state US Attorney appointments, they have ordered Harriet Meirs and Josh Bolton to appear before them to testify and been rebuffed, they have watched “presidential signing statements” being crafted out of thin air as a justification to ignore any Congressional action the president doesn’t agree with, torture, loss of habeas corpus, wiretapping, internet data mining, bank records mining, rendition…..massive violations of the law and ethics……and name me ONE thing they have done about ANY of them and many more.

    If you think they are somehow going to start turning over FCC rocks and doing something about the creepy crawly stuff they would find underneath….just totally forget it. It is not going to happen…today, tomorrow or ever. NEVER

  2. It’s about time Congressional Democrats took a page out of the Republicans’ book. Nothing like a little healthy retaliation against Martin for deciding to ignore their strong recommendation that restrictions on media ownership be left intact. Who knows, maybe Martin will think twice before he ignores the best interests of the consumer in favor of the best interests of the telecom companies again. Better yet, maybe he’s got so much to hide that he’ll join the long list of Bush appointees who have resigned rather than face scrutiny.