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Big Telecom Threatens Investment Apocalypse if FCC Enacts Strong Net Neutrality

bfaMost of the same telecom companies that want to create Internet paid fast lanes, drag their feet on delivering 21st century broadband speeds, refuse t0 wire rural areas for broadband without government compensation, and have cut investment in broadband expansion are warning that any attempt by the FCC to enact strong Net Neutrality policies will “threaten new investment in broadband infrastructure and jeopardize the spread of broadband technology across America, holding back Internet speeds and ultimately deepening the digital divide.”

Twenty-eight CEOs of some of the same cable and phone companies that have fueled the fight for Net Neutrality protections by their actions signed a letter published on the website of the industry-funded astroturf group Broadband for America.

“An open Internet is central to how America’s broadband providers operate their networks, and the undersigned broadband providers remain fully committed to openness going forward,” says the letter. “We are equally committed to working with the Commission to find a sustainable path to a lawful regulatory framework for protecting the open Internet during the course of the rulemaking you are launching this week.”

Ironically, some of the same companies signing the letter earlier successfully sued the Federal Communications Commission to overturn Net Neutrality policies the agency attempted to enact under a lighter regulatory framework.

The industry now fears the FCC will reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications service,” which makes the service subject to oversight far less likely to successfully be overturned in the courts.

That has caused a panic in the boardrooms of some of America’s largest phone and cable companies.

“In recent days, we have witnessed a concerted publicity campaign by some advocacy groups seeking sweeping government regulation that conflates the need for an open Internet with the purported need to reclassify broadband Internet access services as Title II telecommunications services subject to common carrier regulation,” the letter says.

signers1

Part of the Problem?: The CEOs that signed the letter.

 

The companies warn that any attempt to rein in the largely unregulated broadband industry would be a major disaster for the U.S. economy and further broadband expansion:

Broadband investment is falling even without Net Neutrality.

Broadband investment is falling even without Net Neutrality.

Not only is it questionable that the Commission could defensibly reclassify broadband service under Title II, but also such an action would greatly distort the future development of, and investment in, tomorrow’s broadband networks and services. America’s economic future, as envisioned by President Obama and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, critically depends on continued investment and innovation in our broadband infrastructure and app economy to drive improvements in health care, education and energy. Under Title II, new service offerings, options, and features would be delayed or altogether foregone. Consumers would face less choice, and a less adaptive and responsive Internet. An era of differentiation, innovation, and experimentation would be replaced with a series of ―Government may I? requests from American entrepreneurs. That cannot be, and must not become, the U.S. Internet of tomorrow.

Net Neutrality advocates point out that even without Net Neutrality, broadband investment has fallen in the United States for several years, a point conceded by some cable operators.

In 2010, Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent explained cable companies are now taking profits now that they don’t have to spend as much on upgrades.

“I think one of the things people don’t realize [relates to] the question of capital intensity and having to keep spending to keep up with capacity,” Kent said. “Those days are basically over, and you are seeing significant free cash flow generated from the cable operators as our capital expenditures continue to come down.”

“We should seek out a path forward together,” suggests the CEOs. “All affected stakeholders need and want certainty and an end to a decade of legal and political wrangling.”

It may prove difficult for observers to take the CEOs seriously considering the litigation record on broadband oversight and regulation. The largest cable and phone companies have repeatedly sued to overturn policies that do not meet with their full approval, something likely to happen again if these giant providers don’t get exactly what they want.

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Philadelphia Customers Launch Revolt Against Comcast’s 15-Year Franchise Renewal

cap comcastComcast customers in Philadelphia are organizing to stop the cable company from winning a 15-year franchise renewal to continue providing service in the city unless the cable operator changes its ways after years of rate increases and poor customer service.

CAP Comcast! argues Comcast is not paying its fair share and is not a good corporate citizen in the city.

“Comcast has outsized power in a Philadelphia still suffering under economic crisis,” says the group. While the company charges some of the highest cable rates in the country, it has successfully earned $64 billion in revenue and an extremely low corporate tax bill.

“During the last franchise negotiation, Philadelphia elected officials and appointed leaders secured important resources for our city, including funds for public access television, and about $17 million a year for Philadelphia’s general fund,” said Bryan Mercer, co-executive director at Media Mobilizing Project. “But since that time, Philadelphia has shuttered over 20 schools and slashed services that our communities need.  Comcast pays less than 4% in corporate tax revenue, in a state where the average is almost 10%. And they’re getting $40 million in subsidies for their new planned building. If Comcast wants a chance to profit from our communities, Philadelphia should ensure Comcast pays their fair share, or invite other communications companies to serve our city.”

Among the group’s key arguments:

“Comcast accesses our streets – our public rights of way – to sell cable and other services in Philadelphia,” said Hannah Sassaman, policy director at Media Mobilizing Project. “At the same time, they are earning huge profits here and nationally, and planning to merge with Time-Warner Cable.  Comcast has lobbied to stop City Council from passing bills that would expand paid sick days to hundreds of thousands of workers who don’t have them, and their executives have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Governor Corbett, who has cut over a billion dollars from Pennsylvania education.

CAP Comcast! is asking for a five-year rate freeze for Comcast services while increasing broadband speeds and access to all Philadelphians. It also seeks fair treatment for Public, Educational, and Government access channels, expanded affordable Internet access without pre-conditions, involvement in solving local community problems, support of worker rights, and an end to passing along the cost of the franchise fee to customers.

The group has a petition on its website.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Comcast Tell Comcast to Pay Its Fair Share 5-2014.mp4

CAP Comcast! produced this video introducing its campaign to prevent another 15 year franchise for Comcast in Philadelphia unless the company changes its ways. (2:51)

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Viacom Demands 100% Rate Increases for Hundreds of Small Cable Systems, Military Bases

viacom networksSmall cable systems across the country and on overseas military bases are being granted hourly reprieves that are keeping up to 24 Viacom-owned cable channels on the air after negotiations to extend an agreement with their program buyer stalled.

Cable operators belonging to the National Cable TV Cooperative, which represents independent cable systems on cable programming matters, report Viacom is demanding an unprecedented 100 percent rate increase for its networks and a guaranteed rate hike of 10% annually on each of its channels.

Viacom’s demands would cost each subscriber at least $4 a month, noted Jack Capparell, general manager of Service Electric’s cable system in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. Service Electric is a private, family owned cable business with 250,000 subscribers in central and northeastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey.

The impasse also affects cable systems serving American military bases. Americable has notified subscribers in Yokosuka, Atsugi, Iwakuni, and Sasebo, Japan Viacom was likely to cut off 10 of its cable channels to military families sometime today. Allied Telesis, which offers service to Air Force bases in Japan is also expected to lose programming.

cableoneNCTC members complain Viacom requires cable systems to carry nearly all of its lineup, including lesser-known channels few customers have even heard of, much less want. Even if a cable system chooses not to air a Viacom channel, Viacom’s contracts require cable providers to pay for them if they want to carry Viacom’s most popular networks.

Some cable systems are breaking away from NCTC’s negotiations and opening one on one talks with Viacom. Metrocast secured an agreement for its customers earlier today by negotiating directly with Viacom.

viacomFor most affected cable operators, there is a ‘wait and see what happens’ approach. Others, including Cable ONE, have already moved to replace the Viacom networks with other channels.

“Viacom asked for a rate increase greater than 100%, despite the fact that viewing is down on 12 of their 15 networks – some by more than 30% since 2010,” said Cable ONE. “We asked Viacom to either reduce their rates or allow us to drop some of their less popular networks to reduce the total cost. They refused these reasonable requests.”

Logo_Service-ElectricEarlier today, Cable ONE didn’t wait for Viacom to pull the plug. They pulled it themselves.

“Cable ONE has let these networks go and expects to add many top-rated networks you’ve requested and expand several other highly requested networks to our most popular level of service. Some of the new networks include BBC America, Sprout, Investigation Discovery, the Blaze, Hallmark Channel, National Geographic, TV One, Sundance, and more,” said the company, which expects to publish a full list of the new networks on Wednesday.

Viacom responded with a news release tailored for each affected provider:

GCI_Color_LogoWe are offering Service Electric a double-digit discount off of our standard rate card. It is a better deal than HUNDREDS of other TV providers in the country have agreed to. We have been actively trying to get a deal done with Service Electric for months and they have refused to negotiate in any meaningful way. And now, on top of this, Service Electric is throwing out numbers which simply aren’t true. Our expiring deal with Service Electric is nearly five years old. In that time, we have been great partners and given Service Electric more channels, more on demand content and access to our content beyond the TV – at no additional cost. We don’t understand why Service Electric has chosen to negotiate in this manner. And now, as a result of their lack of interest in coming to a mutually beneficial agreement, you are at risk of losing 19 Viacom networks. We are serious about getting a deal done.

Virtually the entire state of Alaska is also affected.

“We’ve unified to fight for Alaskans and to work toward a fair, long-term agreement that keeps prices stable for our customers,” said Paul Landes, GCI senior vice president. “Viacom wants a rate increase that is 40 times that of the rate of inflation. Alaska pay TV providers, along with 700 small to mid-sized operators nationally, are saying ‘no’ to Viacom’s take all 26 channels or nothing demands.”

GCI is joined by Alaskan providers MTA and KPU in the dispute.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Cable ONE Viacom Channels Removed New Channels Added 4-1-14.mp4

Cable ONE released this video earlier today informing customers they were dropping Viacom networks. (1:00)

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Frustration Central: Charter Communications’ Digital Conversion Irritates Cities, Customers

Phillip Dampier March 11, 2014 Broadband Speed, Charter, Consumer News, HissyFitWatch No Comments

all digitalCharter Communications’ march to all-digital service is one big Excedrin headache for many of the communities enduring the cable company’s conversion.

Charter is embarked on a campaign to end analog cable television service, freeing up bandwidth to offer more HD channels and increase broadband speeds. But the switch to digital has been accompanied by frequent service disruptions and outages.

In Texas, customers complain their digital channels are often frozen or pixelated. In Casper, Wyo., where Charter acquired an older cable system from Cablevision that was originally built by Bresnan Communications, customers’ complaints range from inconsistent service and slow response times to loss of sound and frozen video during airing of City Council meetings.

But some of the loudest concerns about Charter originate from the Outer Banks of North Carolina where customers are finding the switch to digital can be very costly.

Tourism is a major part of the local economy and the Outer Banks are filled with seasonal homes, rental condos and hotels. Many property owners maintain seasonal accounts with Charter Cable, only active during the tourist season. Some hotel owners notified about Charter’s plans to transition towards digital service worked with the cable company to buy televisions that would not need additional equipment to work after the switch. With the cable company’s recommendations, some hotel chains purchased dozens or even hundreds of digital-ready television sets installed in rooms that were ready for the switch.

Charter_logoOnly recently, Charter notified customers they also planned to encrypt the basic lineup, rendering the digital televisions useless without the additional cost and inconvenience of installing Charter’s digital set-top boxes. Although Charter will temporarily offer customers free rental of the boxes, after the offer expires, customers will pay Charter $6.99 a month for each box. For some upper end condos, the cost of renting multiple boxes will exceed the cost of the cable TV package.

The Outer Banks Voice details several other customer complaints:

With the older analog systems, many owners flat mounted their televisions to walls and had the cable wired directly into the television, out of sight. With boxes now required, rental homeowners will need to figure out where to place the box and how to run the cables to the set.

In addition, rental companies and homeowners will need to keep track of numerous remotes and keeping those remotes supplied with working batteries.

[...] Thus far, Charter is not offering boxes for sale, so owners cannot absorb the cost over the long-run use of the box, and there appears to be some confusion on whether homes with five or more televisions will require a “Pro Installation” at extra cost to ensure signal strength is sufficient.

If such an installation is required, owners and rental management companies will also be required to arrange access for Charter installers.

Rental condos are also faced with yet another logistic hurdle.

Many condos include cable television fees in their monthly association dues, and the cable contracts for all units are in the name of the condo association.

To obtain boxes, condo owners are now going to be required to set up their own individual accounts, often from an out-of-state location, and then determine how to get the boxes installed.

Signal strength is also a concern in condo projects. Even with analog signals, the multiple connections in one area make reception fuzzy and of low quality.

A small sample of complaints found all over Charter's social media pages.

A small sample of complaints found all over Charter’s social media pages.

Charter Communications shared their side of the story about the digital conversion:

Outer Banks, N.C.

Outer Banks, N.C.

Charter customers are notified by newspaper, direct mail, bill messages, phone calls from Charter representatives, and Charter commercial spots beginning at least 30 days prior to their cutover. Charter is making it easy for customers to receive one or more digital boxes at no cost for one, two or five years, depending on the customer’s programming package and other qualifying factors.

Customers that need less than four boxes can have them shipped directly to their home by calling 1-888-GET-CHARTER or pick them up at a Charter Store.

Customers that live out of town, that own vacation homes, can authorize personnel with their property management company or other specified individuals to pick up their boxes. Customers must first authorize those individuals and add them to their account by calling 1-888-GET-CHARTER. The customer account owner can rescind authorization of individuals at any time.

Property Management companies or authorized individuals can then obtain up to five set-top boxes at a Charter Store.

Customers needing more than five boxes should contact Charter 1-888-GET-CHARTER. A professional technician will be scheduled to assist customers with the installation.

Charter Stores are currently operating with expanded hours to accommodate customers during this all-digital project. Charter Store hours will also be expanded in April where peak volume is expected.

Commercial properties have several options available and can work with their Charter Business account representative on the best solution for their business.

Due to advances in technology, solutions available may involve the need for additional equipment in order to provide the best possible cable, Internet and voice products for our customers.

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HissyFitWatch: Canadian Telecom Companies Annoyed Consumers Getting The Upper Hand

Canadians are demanding a better deal from their cable and phone companies and they are forced to respond.

Canadians are demanding a better deal from their cable and phone companies and they are forced to respond.

As the United States battles back against the introduction of usage caps and rising prices for broadband service, increased competition and regulated open wholesale access to some of Canada’s largest broadband providers have given Canadians an advantage in forcing providers to cut prices and improve service.

Canadians can now easily get unlimited broadband access from one of several independent ISPs that piggyback service on cable and phone networks. Some large ISPs have even introduced all-you-can eat broadband options for customers long-capped by the handful of big players. As customers consider switching providers, cable and phone companies have been forced to cut prices, especially for their best customers. Even cell service is now up for negotiation.

The more services a customer bundles with their provider, the bigger the discount they can negotiate, say analysts who track customer retention. Bell, Rogers, Telus, and others have a major interest keeping your business, even if it means reducing your price.

“It’s far more lucrative for the telecom company to keep you there for the third or fourth service,” telecom analyst Troy Crandall told AP. It cuts down on marketing, service and installation calls, he added.

Getting the best deal often depends on your services, payment history, and how long you have been a customer. Cellphone discounts are the hardest to win, but customers are getting them if they have been loyal, carry a large balance and almost never pay late.

telus shawBigger discounts can be had for television and Internet service — cable television remains immensely profitable in Canada and broadband is cheap to offer, especially in cities. Americans often pay $80 or more for digital cable television packages, Canadians pay an average of $60.

Internet service in Canada now averages $45 a month, but many plans include usage caps. It costs more to take to the cap off.

Because of Canada’s past usage cap pervasiveness, online video is not as plentiful in Canada as it is in the United States. There has been considerably less cord-cutting in the north. Despite that, Canadians are ravenous online viewers of what they can find to watch (either legally or otherwise). As usage allowances disappear or become more generous, online video and the Internet will continue to grow in importance for service providers.

Customers should negotiate with their provider for a better deal, particularly if Bell’s Fibe TV is in town. Bell has been among the most aggressive in price cutting its fiber to the neighborhood television service for new customers ready to say goodbye to Rogers or Vidéotron.

Shaw and Telus battle for market share in the west and also have room to cut customer bills and still make a handsome profit.

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Time Warner Cable Cuts Off Super Bowl in SoCal; Get Your Credit

Phillip Dampier February 4, 2014 Consumer News, HissyFitWatch, Time Warner Cable, Video 2 Comments

twc laTime Warner Cable will provide a free pay-per-view movie or a $5 gift card to Los Angeles-area customers after the cable company lost the Standard Definition signal of Fox affiliate KTTV for about an hour during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

KTTV’s signal was lost just before halftime in and around Los Angeles County from Hacienda Heights and Hancock Park all the way to Santa Monica, as well in parts of Ventura County. Blank screens prompted a deluge of complaint calls to Time Warner Cable’s customer service line, many met with repeated busy signals.

“I’d rather have cable in North Korea than Time Warner Cable,” tweeted Paige Graham. “Time Warner Cable: Your customer service is worse than Denver’s defense,” added Alex Stein.

twcGreenAlthough analog cable customers were forced to watch a Spanish language channel’s coverage of the game, those viewing KTTV’s HD signal on Time Warner Cable were unaffected by the disruption.

For the frustration, Time Warner Cable is offering what they call “a gift of appreciation.”

“Although most of our customers didn’t experience an interruption, we want to express our sincere apologies to all Time Warner Cable TV customers in the Los Angeles area,” said Deborah Picciolo, senior vice president of operations at Time Warner Cable. “Digital TV customers will receive a credit for the cost of an On Demand movie once purchased, and analog customers will receive a $5 gift card. These will be provided automatically; no customer action is necessary.”

Customers should contact customer service if their free pay-per-view movie credit doesn’t appear on a future bill or if the gift card never arrives.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KTLA Los Angeles Time Warner Cable Resolves Service Outage 2-2-14.flv

KTLA in Los Angeles covered Super Bowl parties in Southern California and frustrated Time Warner Cable subscribers that lost the game for about an hour. (2:22)

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PowerPlay: AT&T Says Google Fiber Cannot Use Its Utility Poles in Austin

att poleAT&T has informed Google it will not allow the search engine company to use its utility poles to build a fiber optic network that will compete with AT&T’s own GigaPower fiber service, which launched in Austin this week.

Current rules require utilities to provide non-discriminatory access to poles for all electric and telecommunications companies. AT&T has declared Google is neither, but is willing to work with the company once it is “qualified,” said Tracy King, AT&T’s vice president for public affairs.

“By challenging the city to force an employer to share its equipment contrary to federal law and without transparency, Google appears to be demanding concessions never provided any other entity before,” said King.

The dispute now threatens to involve Austin’s city council, which fears AT&T’s position could result in thousands of new utility poles being installed next to AT&T-owned poles. City officials warn they are willing to settle the matter by changing the rules for all utility companies, using their authority as the owner of the land on which the utility poles are placed.

“We don’t want people to put up their own poles,” Rondella Hawkins, Austin’s telecommunications and regulatory affairs officer, told the Austin-American Statesman. “We want to avoid anybody putting up redundant utility poles. Could you imagine a city where all the (telecommunications) providers individually have their own utility poles? It would be a mess.”

Google said it wants to bring its fiber network to Austin in the least disruptive way possible, and AT&T’s actions may complicate the project.

Martinez

Martinez

The proposed rules change threatened by the city council brought immediate opposition from both AT&T and the unions that represent AT&T workers.

“The city of Austin should not jump into what amounts to a business dispute and create winners and losers before everyone can present data on all the stakes that are involved,” wrote Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO.

This afternoon, with the rules change pending on the calendar, Google and AT&T apparently decided to work out the dispute before the city imposed a solution.

“After hard work, lots of meetings and tons of input – AT&T and Google agree to negotiate their issues with the city,” Austin council member Mike Martinez wrote on his Facebook page. “A postponement of [the ordinance change] is highly likely. Thank you to them and all who helped make this happen.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KVUE Austin Dispute Between Google ATT 12-11-13.mp4

KVUE in Austin reports the pole attachment dispute between AT&T and Google threatens to involve the city council. (3:09)

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Father of DSL Bashes Fiber Broadband as a Waste of Money; “Verizon Loses $800 Per Customer”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/ABC Extended interview with Dr John Cioffi -- Father of DSL 11-18-13.mp4

Dr. John Cioffi, the “Father of DSL” doesn’t think much of fiber to the home service, suggesting it is a waste of money and delivers budget-busting losses to providers. He has the ear of the man in charge of overseeing Australia’s National Broadband Network, Communications Minister John Turnbull. Turnbull’s public statements imply he supports Cioffi’s approach – a hybrid fiber-copper network similar to AT&T U-verse.

By adopting cheaper VDSL technology, Cioffi claims providers can avoid the “$800 unrecoverable loss per customer Verizon FiOS has experienced” bringing fiber to the home. He also claims fiber to the home service isn’t as robust as fiber proponents claim, with flimsy, easy-to-break fiber cables and loads of service calls commonplace among some European providers.

Few media interviews, including this one with ABC Television, bother to fully disclose how Cioffi has a big dog in the broadband technology fight. Cioffi founded ASSIA, Inc., a firm that markets products and services to DSL providers. ASSIA is backed by investments from AT&T, its first customer, and a handful of overseas telephone companies. Cioffi estimates ASSIA software is used to manage 90 percent of existing DSL accounts in the United States and is a fundamental part of AT&T’s efforts to increase U-verse speeds. Dismantling DSL in favor of fiber could have a marked impact on ASSIA’s profits. (8:47)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Malcolm Turnbull Discussion with Father of DSL John Cioffi Part 1 11-18-13.mp4

Australia’s new Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull talks with Dr. John Cioffi about the differences between VDSL and fiber technologies. Cioffi bashes one form of fiber to the home service dubbed “GPON” because it shares infrastructure. Cioffi claims fiber speeds drop to 20Mbps when a few dozen people share a GPON connection. When in Paris, Cioffi claims his shared fiber connection maxed out at 2.5Mbps while ADSL still ran at 6Mbps. (3:52)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Malcolm Turnbull Discussion with Father of DSL John Cioffi Part 2 11-18-13.mp4

Unsurprisingly, Cioffi claims his company’s software is essential for a good vectored VDSL user experience. Cioffi also claims VDSL can easily beat GPON fiber broadband speeds, a very controversial claim. In Cioffi’s view, even Wi-Fi can perform better than fiber. Finally, Cioffi claims Google is spending $8,000 per customer to deploy its fiber to the home network, when VDSL can do the job for much less money. (2:58)

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HissyFitWatch: Cablevision Ends Discounts for Disloyal Subscribers; One Promotion Per Customer

'Disloyal Cablevision customers looking for discounts are dead to us.'

‘Disloyal Cablevision customers looking for discounts are dead to us.’

Cablevision is fed up with disloyal customers bouncing between the cable company and other providers when promotional discounts expire.

After losing 13,000 broadband, 18,000 voice, and 37,000 television customers, Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan said the company has stopped offering any further discounts to customers that received them once before.

“The customer that has been bouncing from one company to another on promotional/repetitive discounts has hit a dead-end with us,” Dolan told Wall Street analysts during a conference call.

All customers with promotions will now be tracked to prevent extensions or further discounts once the special rates expire. Dolan confirmed the ban will also extend to customer retention offers.

Customers who shop primarily on price in Cablevision’s service area have traditionally flipped between AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and the cable company every few years, usually switching after a promotion expires or rates are increased. Because of fierce price competition, new customers can receive a triple play package of broadband, phone, and television service — including equipment, for less than $85 a month for at least one year. Regular prices are considerably higher.

Cablevision lost most of its departing New York and New Jersey customers to Verizon FiOS, but has been more successful fending off competition in Connecticut, where AT&T has the least capable broadband network among the three providers.

cablevisionAll three companies have attempted price increases over the last few years with mixed results. Cablevision’s eight percent rate hike on broadband this year may have been too much for some customers who shopped around and found a better deal with the phone company.

Despite the loss in customers, Dolan remains firmly committed to more rate hikes, especially for broadband service, noting its speed and features (including an extensive Wi-Fi network) deliver enough value to sustain further price increases.

Cablevision clearly hopes competitors follow its lead and end promotional rate double-dipping as well. If they do, customers will find themselves locked in with regular pricing regardless of the provider they choose.

Some analysts are skeptical Cablevision’s hard-line will last, especially if subscriber losses mount. Cable operators have attempted to restrict promotions in the past but tend to ease them if market share suffers. Despite the third quarter customer retreat, Cablevision’s rate hikes delivered $336 million in broadband revenue during the last three months, an increase from $308 million earned the same time last year.

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HissyFitWatch: ‘Tea Party Ted’s’ One Man Blockade of Obama’s FCC Nominee

Cruz Control

Cruz Control

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has blocked the Senate from voting to confirm Tom Wheeler, the Obama Administration’s pick for the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, does not object to Wheeler’s credentials. He’s upset Wheeler might support a regulatory implementation of portions of the Disclose Act, a bill requiring full disclosure of who pays for political advertising. The bill would require corporations, super PACs, astroturf groups and other special interests to report to the Federal Election Commission when they spend more than $10,000 on airtime for campaign ads.

Cruz and several other Republican senators wrote the FCC in April to warn the bill violates corporate First Amendment speech rights and was unconstitutional.

With no chance the legislation will pass a Republican-controlled House and deadlocked Senate, the bill’s supporters have turned to the FCC with the idea the agency could act independently to require campaign ad disclosures, a suggestion that infuriated conservative Republicans who disapprove of any enhanced oversight powers for the regulator.

Cruz placed a formal hold on Wheeler’s nomination last week as the Senate prepared to vote an end to the 16-day federal government shutdown.

A spokesman from Cruz’s office made it clear as long as Wheeler continued to vacillate on a commitment not to regulate campaign ads, he will not get an up or down vote on his nomination in the Senate.

Observers suggest Cruz’s hold will stall spectrum auctions and, if extended beyond the fall, could eventually freeze Internet expansion programs for schools and libraries.

Acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn will continue in that role until Wheeler gets confirmed or another appointee is nominated and approved.

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