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Neil Fried

Congressional Panel at The Cable Show Highlights Spectrum, Net Neutrality, and Universal Service Issues

in Congress/FCC/Net Neutrality/Rural Utilities Service/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2013 – Spectrum policy, net neutrality, and Universal Service Fund reforms were among the topics discussed by congressional staffers at The Cable Show panel entitled “Capitol Perspectives: Commerce Committee Staffers on Communications Policy.”

The panel, held at the annual convention of the National Cable and Telecommunications Associations on Monday, consisted of eight staff members from both the House and Senate Commerce Committees. Spectrum policy was a major issue for the panelists.

Kristen Sharp, legislative director for Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., noted the importance of pushing the Defense Department to make more efficient use of its spectrum to free it up for other uses. A government incentive auction, similar to those held for corporations, to serve this purpose was suggested by Neil Fried, chief counsel for the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Sharing of spectrum was also discussed, although panelists also noted the importance of preventing Wi-Fi from interfering with crucial transportation communications.

“At the end of the day, safety is of critical importance,” David Quinalty, policy director for the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, said.

Net Neutrality was one of the more divisive issues for the panel. David Grossman, senior technology policy advisor for Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., attributed the rapid innovation of internet-related technology to the Federal Communications Commission’s open internet rules. Quinalty, in contrast, claimed the regulations were unnecessary and that the industry would maintain current practices without such rules.

“Net neutrality continues to be a solution in search of a problem,” Quinalty said.

The panelists also debated the effectiveness of USF reforms. Despite some flaws, John Branscome, senior counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., asserted that the program had been reasonably successful in targeting areas in need of broadband service. Grossman, however, was more critical of the fact the many areas still lack coverage.

“A lot of cracks have shown in the mission of the fund,” Grossman said.

CES Panel Debates Net Neutrality, With Carriers Complaining About FCC Rules

in FCC/Net Neutrality by

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2011 – Government and industry representatives gathered Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show for a panel discussion on the merits of the FCC’s recent Open Internet Order and its effects on the broadband industry.

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post moderated the panel, which was part of the Tech Policy Summit series at CES, instigating discussions ranging from whether the FCC had the appropriate authority to issue the Order, to what impact participants felt it would have on the future of the Internet.

The FCC Open Internet Order lays out three principles by which internet service providers (ISPs) must abide.  First, ISPs must provide services in a transparent manner by disclosing their network management practices and performance characteristics.  Second, network providers must not block lawful content from their customers, and third, providers may not unreasonably discriminate by prioritizing certain network traffic without sufficient reason.

A representative from each of network providers AT&T and Verizon indicated that their companies opposed the order.  Both, however, indicated that they felt the FCC had done a good job in a difficult position.

“The FCC did a great job of dealing with this issue,” said Tom Tauke, an executive vice president of public affairs and policy at Verizon.  “The fact is that Congress hasn’t addressed this issue… the FCC was working on shaky statutory authority.”

James Cicconi, senior vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, asserted that the regulation was unnecessary and imposed a burden on the industry based on hypothetical situations.

“The problem when you’re dealing with hypotheticals, is that there is an infinite variety,” he said.  “If you try to legislate or regulate every one of them, you can shut down what you’re trying to protect.”

Rick Whitt, Washington media and telecommunications counsel for Google, supported the measure due to its moderate nature.

“This should be seen as an interim step – nothing happens in big steps in Washington,” said Whitt, going on to call the policy one “not of ‘wait and see,’ but rather of ‘watch and see.’”

The issue has also become a lightning rod for political debate, with many Republicans in the House vowing to use the newly-acquired majority to strike down the Order.

Neil Fried, Republican chief counsel on communications and technology matters for the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives, indicated that reversing the Order was a high priority for Republicans in the 112th Congress.

“Net Neutrality is where we start on our tech policy docket,” he said, calling the Order a burden on business.

Roger Sherman, Democratic chief counsel for communications and technology policy for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, countered Fried’s assertions.

“We think it’s just the opposite. We think net neutrality protects the internet,” said Sherman, while leaving the possibility of alternative solutions on the table.  “If the GOP wants to open this issue and talk about ways to protect the internet rather than just gut what the FCC has done, we’re certainly open to that”

How Will Congress Greet the National Broadband Plan? For Clues, Watch the Broadband Breakfast Club

in Broadband TV/Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2010 – Broadband Census News LLC on Monday released, for FREE, the full-length video of the Broadband Breakfast Club event on March 16, 2010: “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Where to From Here?

The event is available on BroadbandBreakfast.com at the following link.

The event included key Congressional aides addressing the likely reception of the national broadband plan on Capitol Hill. The event was moderated by Sharon McLoone, Managing Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com, and the panelists included:

  • Shawn H. Chang, Majority Counsel, Communications and Technology Policy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • Neil Fried, Minority Counsel, Telecommunications, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • David Quinalty, Professional Staff Member, Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet
  • Daniel Sepulveda, Senior Advisor, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Don’t Miss the next Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, April 20, 2010: “International Perspectives on the U.S. National Broadband Plan” Registration is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

The Broadband Breakfast Club is sponsored by the International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc., the Telecommunications Industry Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the Benton Foundation.

For further information about sponsorship, contact sylvia@broadbandcensus.com, or call 646-262-4630. The Broadband Breakfast Club is Copyright © Broadband Census News LLC.

Knight Digital Media Center on Attending the Next Broadband Breakfast Club

in Broadband Calendar/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

The Knight Digital Media Center web site promotes the upcoming Broadband Breakfast Club, “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Where to From Here?”

Track the action. Either attend (if you’re in the DC area) or watch the archived webcast of this March 16 BroadbandBreakfast.com event: Top Congressional tech staffers will discuss Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Where to from Here?. Representatives of the main Congressional committiees hashing over the plan will be there: the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. (Good committees to start monitoring regularly.)

The National Broadband Plan is highly controversial—expect a big political battle here. Large, established businesses such as cable companies, broadcasters, and telcos have much at stake and are throwing substantial lobbying muscle toward protecting their interests. Expect that the there will be changes to the plan between the time it goes to committee and the version that eventually makes it to the floor of Congress.

Another great resource for tracking this issue is Drew Clark’s BroadbandBreakfast.com blog—one of the best sources of news and update for national, regional, and state broadband issues.

The Knight Digital Media Center is a partnership between USC Annenberg and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism funded by the Knight Foundation.

Registration for the event is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com. Confirmed speakers include:

  • Shawn H. Chang, Majority Counsel, Communications and Technology Policy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • Neil Fried, Minority Counsel, Telecommunications, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • Brian Hendricks, Minority General Counsel, US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
  • Daniel Sepulveda, Senior Advisor, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

FCC To Release National Broadband Plan One Day Early, at March 16 Open Meeting

in Broadband Calendar/Broadband Updates/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission plans to release the National Broadband Plan on Tuesday, March 16, at its March open meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. at agency headquarters at 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C.

The release of the plan comes one day before it is formally due to Congress, on March 17. The plan had been due on February 17, one year after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act within a month of President Obama taking office. The FCC requested and received a one-month extension.

In it’s announcement that its March meeting will be fully occupied by presentations on the national broadband plan, the agency also waived its normal prohibition on “ex parte” presentations in the seven days leading up to an agency meeting. Such ex parte presentations provide an opportunity for lobbyists and interested parties to address FCC commissioners outside the formal rule-making process.

Lobbyists and othere interested parties are still required to file disclosure statements about the contents of their communications with agency officials.

The FCC March meeting begins shortly after the conclusion of the monthly March Broadband Breakfast Club, which runs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. The theme for the March Broadband Breakfast Club is “Setting the Table for the National Broadband Plan: Where to From Here?” The event will consider how the national broadband plan will be received on Capitol Hill. Registration for the event is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com. Confirmed speakers include:

  • Shawn H. Chang, Majority Counsel, Communications and Technology Policy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • Neil Fried, Minority Counsel, Telecommunications, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • Brian Hendricks, Minority General Counsel, US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
  • Daniel Sepulveda, Senior Advisor, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Telecom Committees in Congress Raise Universal Broadband Issues at Cable Forum

in Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2009 – Congress is unlikely to act on major broadband issues until after the August recess, aides to House and Senate committee chairs told attendees Tuesday at the American Cable Association summit here.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V. wants to work on “a host of pressing challenges” this year, said deputy chief of staff James Reid. Rockefeller and Sen. John Kerry, D-Ma., who chairs the newly constituted Telecommunications Subcommittee, are looking at a number of communications and media-related issues for consideration.

But Reid said Senate action is unlikely to go beyond hearings, with the exception of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension Reauthorization Act, which expires at year’s end. He blamed the current pace of Senate debate for the pessimistic outlook, “You need bills that can be done [on the Senate floor] in one or two days,” he said. But Reid added that the committee’s fall schedule had not yet been mapped out, leaving the possibility for new developments open.

On the House side, Energy and Commerce Committee Senior Counsel Tim Powderly said Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was “singularly focused” on climate change legislation, and along with health care reform, would likely dominate the committee’s agenda until the memorial day recess. Except for SHVERA, there is “not a lot of room for other things,” he said.

Neil Fried, counsel to Ranking Member Joe Barton, R-Texas, agreed. “It’s going to be a while before we can really dig down into [telecommunications] issues,” he said.

Barton is particularly interested in reforming the Universal Service Fund, he said, but cautioned the $7.25 billion in broadband stimulus funds may “take some of the air out of the debate” on USF reform.

Fried said Barton worries that the stimulus program would turn into a continuously funded source, which he warned would “effectively double” the $7 billion Universal Service Fund.

But Reid said a comparison between the stimulus and USF is incorrect, and called the idea that stimulus funds are meant to improve residential access alone a “misconception…based on a very different concept of what unserved and underserved areas actually mean.”

Reid suggested a better solution for communities would be to create capacity for future development with so-called “middle mile” build-out. Powderly also concurred that stimulus funds could best be used to increase backhaul capacity for rural telecommunications providers.

Chairman Rockefeller hopes to hold confirmation hearings for FCC Chairman-designate Julius Genachowski and NTIA administrator Larry Strickling before Congress’ Memorial Day Recess, Powderly later said.

“We need to get going,” he said, adding that it was unfair for the nominations to be held up for reasons unrelated to qualifications.

But despite rumors that Genachowski would be joined by South Carolina Public Utility Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., Powderly said the White House has not given any indication it has vetted any others for the second open Democratic seat on the commission.

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