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.