Telcos Will See a More Activist Congress

capitol21I’d better hightail it to Washington, because a reshuffling of Congressional Committee members is poised to herald more regulation for telecommunications firms on issues ranging from rural access to Net Neutrality. Yesterday Rep. Henry Waxman ascended to the head of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce — which you may remember for its investigation into how web firms use consumer data — and convened two hearings into online privacy.

As the head of that committee, Waxman has considerable influence over its agenda. The Wall Street Journal speculates that Waxman will delegate many telecommunications issues to Rep. Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, who has already pushed for a Net Neutrality bill, and has a fondness for consumer issues.

In the Upper House, Sen. Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia will likely be named the head of the Senate  Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology, and as the representative from a heavily rural state, is likely to push for access to broadband. He would replace Sen. Dan Inouye of Hawaii, who will chair the Appropriations Committee. Inouye had supported Net Neutrality rules, as well as the entrance of new bidders into the 700 MHz auction.

Of course, if politicians are willing to float regulations on telecommunications, they’re also likely to float more regulations in general — some of which the pro-Net Neutrality crowd won’t enjoy. Rockefeller wants to introduce legislation to make the FCC regulate television violence, while Markey  has sent letters to the FCC expressing concern about the use of product placement in television shows.

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